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Useful Stats: NSF SBIR Success Rates by State (2008-2017)

January 31, 2019
By: Jonathan Dworin

The National Science Foundation (NSF), the fifth largest distributor of SBIR awards among federal agencies, received more than 20,000 proposals over the decade long period from 2008 to 2017, approving more than 3,600 (16.8 percent), according to an SSTI analysis of NSF data. NSF SBIR awards are the least concentrated of all federal agencies, as measured by share of awards going to firms with more than 10+ awards. An SSTI analysis found that New Hampshire (28 percent success rate), Wisconsin (26.7 percent success rate), and Louisiana (24.7 percent) were the most likely to convert their NSF SBIR applications into awards.




The map above shows NSF SBIR/STTR award success by state over the 10-year period from 2008 to 2017. Shading represents the state’s success rate, with darker shades representing a higher approval rate of submissions, while bubble-size represents the average number of NSF/STTR awards per year.

The top four states for NSF SBIR awards over the 10-year period were also the top four states for NIH SBIR awards: California (76 NSF SBIR awards per year), Massachusetts (30 awards per year), New York (20 awards per year), and Texas (16 awards per year). These were also the only states to average more than 100 NSF SBIR applications per year during the 10-year period.




The chart above looks at success rates among Phase I (x-axis) and Phase II (y-axis) proposals over the 10-year period. In this chart, bubble size represents the total number of awards from 2008 to 2017. The color of the bubble represents changes in the number of awards between two periods: from 2008-2012 and from 2013-2017.

Among Phase I proposals, New Hampshire (24.2 percent conversion rate), Iowa (22.2 percent), Wisconsin (21.6 percent), North Carolina (20.2 percent), and Wyoming (20.0 percent) had the highest conversion rates over the 10-year period. Montana (57.1 percent), Louisiana (50 percent), Oregon (50 percent), Wisconsin (49.1 percent), and New Hampshire (46.2 percent) had the highest success rates for Phase II proposals during that time.

The color of the dots in the above scatterplot is determined by looking at two time-periods: from 2008 to 2012, and from 2013 to 2017. The number of NSF SBIR awards increased in 35 states across those two periods, with the largest increases in California (128 award increase between periods), Washington (29 award increase), and Utah (26 award increase). Alternatively, the states with the largest decrease between the two periods were Ohio (26 award decrease between periods), South Carolina (10 award decrease), and Arkansas (8 award decrease).

Not surprisingly, on average, success rates were much higher for Phase II proposals. States that had a large increase in the number of total awards between periods tended to have higher success rates. Overall, more research is needed on whether there are policies in place in these states, or other characteristics of these states, that may contribute to above-average SBIR success.

Still, for each state, there is value in knowing your quadrant:

  • In the top-right quadrant, states have above average success rates in both phases. These states have an opportunity to tie-in additional sources of capital for their SBIR awardees.
  • In the top-left quadrant, states have below-average Phase I success rates but above average Phase II success rates. Although these states are less likely to receive an SBIR Phase I award, those companies that do receive one are more likely to receive a Phase II.
  • In the bottom-right quadrant, states have above-average Phase I success rates but below-average Phase II success rates. These states should work with their Phase I awardees to help encourage better results for Phase II applications.
  • In the bottom-left quadrant, states have below-average success rates for both phases. There are opportunities in these states to improve the outcomes of SBIR applicants through the creation or improvement of programs such as Phase 0 grants, proposal-writing assistance, and access to additional information. 




As can be seen in the chart above, NSF represents the fifth largest SBIR agency, with 2,142 total awards distributed between 2013 to 2017. Notably, NSF SBIR awards are the least concentrated of any federal agency: no firms received more than 10 SBIR awards over the five-year period. As a comparison, more than half (51 percent) of all DoD SBIR/STTR awards from 2013 to 2017 went to firms that received at least 10 awards during the 10-year period. This lack of concentration makes NSF SBIR awards a particularly interesting unit of analysis.

Data on NSF SBIR success rates can be found in this spreadsheet. For additional reading, visit SSTI’s previous articles on NIH SBIR success rates and the geography of SBIR awards.



useful stats, sbir, nsf