NIH SBIR – Restructured Research Plan

In an effort to to provide more timely and transparent peer review, the NIH has been implementing many changes to both the review process as well the proposal structure. Previously, a new scoring system was put in place. The 5 point system was replaced by a 9 point system, and reviewers are now required to provide a numerical score for each of 5 categories. These scores are presented to the applicant on the review statement, along with comments, providing a more transparent view of the review process.

The latest change is a restructured research proposal with shorter page limits. The proposal structure will now be more aligned with the review criteria, and the shortened page limit will, ideally, allow the reviewers more time with each proposal. The changes are as follows:

  1. Specific Aims section is now limited to 1 page only.
  2. Three sections of the Research Plan (Background & Significance, Preliminary Studies, and Research Design & Methods) are now combined into 1 section, Research Strategy, with 3 sub-sections, Significance, Innovation and Approach. Preliminary Studies and Progress Reports must be discussed under Approach.
    This section is limited to 6 pages for Phase I and 12 pages for Phase II.
  3. The Commercialization Plan has been limited to 12 pages.

In addition, the Facilities section must now explain how the scientific environment will contribute to the probability of success for the proposed project. Lastly, a Personal Statement has been added to Biographical Sketch section.

Changes are effective for ALL proposals submitted after January 25, 2010

Practically, how does this effect your application and chances for success? If you are clear as to the commercial aspect of your technology, and can articulate that, as you would to any investor, it will actually make your work much simpler. If however, you are are still determining how to apply your science to the commercial market, you are in for a challenge. No longer can you use the Background section to talk about the scientific basis of your discovery. You must spend the majority of the proposal discussing it’s Significance and Innovation as it applies to the marketplace.

Changes to the Facilities section are in an attempt to ensure that applicants actually have appropriate commercial space in which to perform the work. These grants are not to fund academic endeavors.

For new applicants, such as post-docs or former graduate students, that want to experiment in the world of start-ups, the Personal Statement section provides as specific section is which to address their strengths such as inventor status.

As always, if you would like to discuss these changes, or your application, feel free to contact our office.