Useful Stats: SBIR/STTR application success rates decreased from 2019 to 2020 at NASA

July 22, 2021
By: Colin Edwards

A helpful metrics used by organizations dedicated to supporting technology startups and bolstering local innovation economies is the success rate of companies applying to the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs. Understanding how successful local companies are at submitting quality applications and winning SBIR/STTR awards can better assist in designing outreach, education, technical assistance, mentorship, and other entrepreneurial support programs. This edition of Useful Stats examines recently updated NASA data on the agency’s SBIR/STTR application success rates by state from 2019 to 2020.

Nationally, NASA’s total SBIR/STTR application success rates dropped from 27.0 percent in 2019 to 24.8 percent in 2020. Phase I application success rates dropped by less than one percentage point from 22.2 percent in 2019 to 21.5 percent in 2020, while Phase II application success rates dropped by 4.8 percentage points from 48.6 percent in 2019 to 43.8 percent in 2020. Given that Phase I applications consistently make up the majority of NASA’s SBIR/STTR awards (representing a 69 percent share of all SBIR/STTR awards in 2019 and 74 percent in 2020), this analysis primarily considers the success rates of Phase I applications to NASA.

As seen in the image below, the majority of states experienced declines (shaded red in the map below) in their NASA SBIR/STTR Phase I application success rates from 2019 to 2020. There were several states where there were no applications to the NASA SBIR/STTR Phase I program (shaded light gray in the map below), but the states that experienced the greatest decreases in application success rates from 2019 to 2020 were Missouri (-18.4 percentage points); Kansas (-23.2 percentage points); South Carolina (-25 percentage points); Louisiana (-41.7 percentage points); and, Rhode Island (-50 percentage points). However, just because these states saw the largest declines does not mean they also had the lowest absolute success rates. The participating states with the lowest success rates in 2020 were the District of Columbia (7.1 percent); North Carolina (10.0 percent); Kansas (14.3 percent); Vermont (14.3 percent); and, Wyoming (14.3 percent).


Although most states experienced NASA SBIR/STTR application success rate declines in 2020, several experienced improved application success rates. The states that experienced the greatest percentage point increases in NASA SBIR/STTR Phase I application success rates from 2019 to 2020 were Montana (31.9 percentage points); Delaware (20.8 percentage points); New Jersey (13.6 percentage points); New Mexico (12.9 percentage points); and, Texas (9.5 percentage points). The states that had the greatest success rates in 2020 — although fewer total proposals submitted in these states — were South Dakota (100 percent, one proposal); Rhode Island (50 percent, two proposals); Montana (44.4 percent, 9 proposals); Idaho (33.3 percent, 3 proposals); and Delaware (33.3 percent, 12 proposals).

Click here for the data file used in this analysis.

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