Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) FAQs
Questions on Submission
- What happened to the subtopics?
- In the past, NIST’s NOFOs included subtopics, specific issues that NIST asked applicants to propose solutions, in Section 9. Beginning for 2019, NIST changed the process to allow more opportunity for applicants to apply. Subtopics were eliminated. Applicants are now required to describe how their technology/proposal addresses a current NIST technical program area falling within one of the topic areas identified in Section 9 or utilizes a NIST-patented technology. We urge potential applicants to read the full NOFO, taking particular note of Sections 4, 8 and 9.
- What format should the additional documents submitted (e.g. not the standard forms) be in?
- That is up to the applicant. NIST will accept Word, PDF or Excel (as part of the budget narrative) files. These can be uploaded via Grants. Applicants can submit one file (i.e. a PDF) with all the included documents, or upload separate files for each.
- The Cover Sheet requires a “Proprietary Notice” be included if such information is part of the proposal. Does that full notice have to be in the header on every page?
- The full paragraph should be included at the start of the proposal, and any pages thereafter which include proprietary information should have that noted in the header. “Proprietary Information” is sufficient – this is in the unlikely event that pages become separated from the whole.
- Does NIST offer a fast-track program to combine Phase I & II, or go direct to Phase II?
- No, NIST does not offer this option.
- If I have sub-contractors, do they need a separate Data Management Plan (DMP)?
- Separate DMPs are not required for subcontractors. However, data generated by them should be accounted for in the applicant’s DMP.
- How do I register for SAM?
- Electronic applicants will find instructions on registering with SAM.gov as part of the Grants.gov process at: http://www.grants.gov/web/grants/applicants/organization-registration.html
- I am having problems with my SAM registration, what can I do?
- Contact the SAM.gov’s help center, the Federal Service Desk, found at this link: https://www.fsd.gov/fsd-gov/home.do
- I received an email from Grants.gov that my application has been submitted, can NIST confirm that it is complete?
- The Grants.gov system requires four mandatory forms (SF424, SF424 A, SF424 B and CD511) be attached in order for an application to be accepted by the system. The system-generated email confirmation is not confirmation that the application meets all the criteria for applying. To ensure fairness, NIST is unable to verify for applicants if an application is complete. Therefore, it is highly recommended that applicants log in to verify that all their attachments went through.
- How do I verify that my attachments went through on Grants.gov?
- After submitting the application, follow the directions found in the Grants.gov Online Users Guide (http://go.usa.gov/cjaEh). Click first on Applicants; then click on Applicant Actions; go then to the “Check My Application Status” option, and choose Download Submitted Applications. Follow the directions found there. Remember, in order for this to work, don’t just visit Grants.gov - Log in. And remember to click on the record found on the Check My Application Status screen in order to see the List of Forms and Files Received screen. If any, or all, of the required attachments are absent from the submission, follow the attachment directions found in the Full Announcement/NOFO document, resubmit the entire application package, and check again for the presence of the required attachments.
- My first application was incomplete and I need to resubmit the package, how do I ensure the correct application is reviewed?
- NIST will only consider the last application received by the system for review. If an application applies to more than one subtopic, the last application received for each subtopic will be the one considered. Please ensure that the subtopic is completed on the coversheet!
- How do I provide proof of my SBC or SAM registration?
- A print out, or PDF, of your registration confirmation is sufficient. Example:
How does a small business apply?
An annual program NOFO is published containing a list of R&D topics and subtopics in Section 9. Applicants may choose from the research topics identified in the NOFO and submit a proposal for any subtopic in which they feel qualified. Proposals must adhere to the guidelines provided in the Solicitation; proposals that do not comply will not be considered. Unsolicited proposals are not accepted.
One of the subtopics in this year's Solicitation is similar to a topic in last year's Solicitation. Is it permissible to re-submit a proposal rejected from the prior year's Solicitation?
Provided it is updated to include state-of-the-art technology and addresses deficiencies that were noted in the reviewers' comments, you may resubmit. Please note that if it is essentially the same proposal, it will be returned without review. If it was deemed unacceptable once, it would meet the same fate again and will not pass the screening stage.
Can I contact NIST topic authors before the Solicitation opens?
Communication with NIST subtopic authors is only permitted during the open Solicitation period. During the open period, a link is available for contacting the authors. Submitter names and subtopic authors are kept anonymous, and all questions and answers are posted on the website. We institute the communication constraints to keep the competition open and fair. If one company has the opportunity to gain special insight into what the federal agency is seeking, its motivation, or other information that is not otherwise public, they would have an unfair advantage.
My small business was awarded an SBIR grant by an agency other than NIST (e.g. DoD, NSF, etc.) and I would like to work with NIST on certain aspects on that research because of NIST's unique capabilities. Will NIST provide the technical assistance that I need?
NIST cannot endorse private entities and therefore should not be cited in an SBIR proposal to support the application. However, after award, NIST may consider working with SBIR awardees. SBIR funds should be spent in private sector research labs whenever possible, but in those instances where NIST’s capabilities are unique, and the work aligns with NIST’s mission, NIST is able to work with non-Federal entities via various authorities (CRADA authority, Organic Act, etc.) NIST also has regular services that are available for small business, including SBIR awardees: the Manufacturing Extension Partnership Program, and Calibrations and Standards services may be available. NIST’s User Facilities are available on a competitive basis, via application.
If SBIR funds are to be used to fund the NIST effort, a waiver from the SBA may be required. This waiver is handled through the agency that granted the SBIR funding agreement.
Questions Regarding the Budget
- What is the difference between indirect and direct costs?
- Indirect costs are costs an organization incurs for common or joint objectives that cannot be readily and specifically identified with a particular grant project or other institutional activity (i.e., overhead costs). Indirect costs typically include administrative and clerical salaries, fringe benefits, costs of operating and maintaining facilities, equipment, grounds, and depreciation or use allowances.
- Please see the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) for more information.
Electronic CFR: http://www.ecfr.gov/cgi-bin/text-idx?SID=21cb732fbc280a1b9439181aeb58fdc8&node=sp2.1.200.e&rgn=div6#se2.1.200_1414
- The SF424 A Budget form has “fringe benefits under direct costs, isn’t that indirect?
- According to 2 CFR §200.413(a) and (b), the compensation of employees who work on a Federal award and their related fringe benefit costs are typically charged directly to that award as they can be identified specifically with a particular final cost objective (Personnel & Fringe) or can be directly assigned to such activities relatively easily with a high degree of accuracy.
- Are insurance, holidays & vacation considered direct or indirect?
- They are considered direct costs.
- Can I get an example of an Indirect Cost Rate Agreement?
- There are no samples of the Indirect Cost Rate Agreement. If a rate has not been established, provide a statement to this effect. If you don’t have a current, approved negotiated agreement from a cognizant Federal audit agency, you may propose estimated indirect costs at a rate not to exceed 40 percent of the total direct costs and will not be required to provide further justification if selected for an award.
- Would my proposal be more competitive if my budget came in under $100k (Phase I)/300K (Phase II)?
- No advantage is provided to applicants who come in “under budget”. However, justification for your budget should be addressed in the budget narrative.
- How much detail should be included in the budget narrative?
- The budget narrative has no strict guidelines; you can include as much detail as you feel necessary to convey the feasibility of achieving the project goal with Phase I (or Phase II) level funding. The budget should also address the requirements for how funds can be spent, including, but not limited to, Section 5 of the NOFO.
Questions Regarding Forms (SF424, SF424A, SF424B, CD511)
- The NOFO states that fees are acceptable. Where on the budget form do I enter this information?
- Fees can be included under “other” on the second page of the SF424A; fees should also be identified in the budget narrative.
- The forms ask for a project name and award number- where do I find this information?
- The “Award Number” field, “Funding Opportunity Number” and “Competition Identification Number” should all use the NOFO Announcement Number.
- Use “Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Program” as the award or project title.
- What do I use for the project start date?
- The start date will be determined once awards have been finalized by the NIST Grants office. To complete the mandatory form field, choose a date 60 days from the close of the NOFO.
- On the SF424, what do I use for the title of my application on #15?
- Applicants can create their own unique title, or use the subtopic title they are applying under. The same title should also be used on the Cover Sheet.
- On the SF424, what is the correct response to #19?
- The Program is NOT covered by that Executive Order.
- What is a “unique entity identifier”?
- DUNS number.