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Useful Stats: NIH SBIR/STTR application success rates & trends, FY 2012-2021

July 22, 2022
By: Conor Gowder

In fiscal year 2021, the nationwide success rate of applicants for National Institutes of Health (NIH) Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Phase I awards decreased slightly from FY 2020. This continued a downward trend over recent years. The success rate for NIH SBIR/STTR Phase I was nearly 13 percent (647 of 5,132 approved) in FY 2021, a decrease from nearly 14 percent (636 of 4,684 approved) in FY 2020 and from nearly 16 percent for all proposals submitted over the past decade.

SSTI’s analysis for this article is based on SBIR/STTR application and award data recently released by NIH.

For FY 2020 and 2021, Minnesota experienced the greatest increase in share of all applications (plus 1 percent), while Illinois saw the largest drop in its share (minus 1 percent). California-based companies had the most Phase I proposals, consisting of 21 percent of all proposals both years. California also had the highest numerical increase in applications submitted (119), while Illinois experienced the largest drop (minus 17). In FY 2020, just two states (North Dakota and Idaho) did not have any companies submit SBIR or STTR proposals, decreasing to just one state (North Dakota) in FY 2021.

For states where companies submitted proposals, Rhode Island saw the greatest percentage increase in success rate, rising from 4 percent to 22 percent of applications submitted. Iowa’s success rate had the second-greatest increase from 3 percent to 15 percent. Maine (3 applications) and Wyoming (4 applications) received no Phase I awards in FY 2021. This was a change from FY 2020, when the states had 1 and 9 applications submitted and success rates of 100 percent and 44 percent, respectively.

The regular Phase II success rates stayed approximately the same between FY 2020 and 2021 (30 percent and 31 percent, respectively), approximately double the Phase I rates, but saw a decrease in the number of total proposals (665 to 585).

From FY 2020 to 2021, Direct-to-Phase II applications saw a large increase, from 588 to 851, while the success rate fell from 19 percent to 15 percent. The average number of applications submitted per state increased by about 5 applications (from 11.3 to 16.4), while the average number of awards increased from just 2.2 to 2.5.

Over the past 10 fiscal years (2012-2021), the SBIR/STTR Phase I success rate has been nearly 16 percent.  

California had the largest number of Phase I proposals (10,010), making up the largest share of total proposals (21 percent). Alaska, Idaho, and North Dakota submitted only 30 applications each over the past decade, making up a combined total of just 0.18 percent of all Phase I applications. In terms of awards, California had the largest amount (1583) and share (22 percent), while Idaho had the least (1 award; 0.01 percent).

Oregon-based companies had the highest success rate for Phase I over the past decade at 22 percent, while Idaho’s companies had the lowest at 3 percent.

California also had the largest number of Phase II proposals (1237), and made up the largest share (20 percent), while Idaho, North Dakota, and Puerto Rico all had 1 proposal each. California had the most awards (444) and largest share of awards (20 percent). For states where at least one company received an award, Alaska and Wyoming had the lowest share of awards (0.045 percent) with just one award each.

For Phase II awards, the nationwide success rate over the past decade was 36 percent. Idaho companies experienced the highest success rate at 100 percent (1 of 1 awarded), while Mississippi (7 applications), North Dakota (1), Puerto Rico (1), and South Dakota (5) companies did not receive any awards.

useful stats, nih, sbir, sttr