How to Distinguish NIH SBIR Phase I, Phase II and Fast-Tracks Grants by Grant Codes: the Basics

You can certainly apply for a SBIR Phase I grant without ever needing to know they are also called R43 grants. Nor do you need to know SBIR Phase IIs are also called R44s.

But if you ever research SBIR grants in in NIH’s public database, the NIH RePORTER, for clues about what kind of research projects NIH is willing to fund, you will need to know. This is because the database does not list SBIR grants in straightforward fashion as Phase Is, Phase IIs, and Fast-Tracks. They are listed in codes like R43 and R44 — except that the codes are more complex.

To understand what you’re looking at among SBIR grants in the database, here is the minimum I think you need to know about grant codes.

NIH SBIR Activity Codes

R43 and R44 are what NIH calls Activity Codes. NIH has dozens of different grant programs and needs a shorthand system for keeping them straight. That’s what activity codes do. R01 is probably the best known; it’s the activity code for a large medical research grant that a scientist at a university or research institute will use to fund a lab.

Remembering more than a couple of these codes is difficult, and for me, remembering all the different SBIR grant codes is very difficult. So I made the table below to help me remember the main ones.

Note, these are the main SBIR codes. A complete code list would be longer and definately more complicated.

Why you also need to know SBIR Type Codes.

As I said, the activity code for a Phase I SBIR grant is R43 and for a Phase II is R44. Now things get complicated: R44 is also the activity code for Fast-Track grants.

How then do you tell a SBIR Phase II grant and a Fast-Track grant apart? Answer: with Type Codes. The table illustrates.

If you win a new SBIR Phase I grant, it will be coded in the database as Type 1 R43. If you win a SBIR Phase II grant to follow-up on Phase I and continue research for two more years, your first year of Phase II funding will be coded Type 2 R44. Your second year of Phase II funding will be coded Type 5 R44.

NIH SBIR Fast-Track Codes

If you win a Fast-Track grant, your first year of funding (which is equivalent to Phase I funding) will be coded Type 1 R44. Your second year of funding (equivalent to the first year of Phase II) will be coded Type 4 R44. Your third year of funding (equivalent to the second year of Phase II) will be coded Type 5 R44.

When I hunt information on funded Fast-Track grants for a client, I look for Type 1 R44 and Type 4 R44 grants in the database. Type 5 R44 grants aren’t informative because they could be Phase II grants or Fast-Track grants.

Some SBIR Grant Code Complexities

1. In the table, note the Year of Project Funding column. The NIH RePORTER considers a Phase I grant and a follow-up Phase II as part of the same project. For this reason, the NIH RePORTER will list the first year of Phase II funding in the database as year 2 of project funding. The second year of Phase II will be listed in the database as year 3 of project funding.

Similarly, the NIH RePORTER lists a Fast-Track grant as a project with a first, second, and third year of funding.

2. Sometimes Phase I funding will last  two years. A Phase I SBIR grant in its second year of support will be listed as Type 5 R43.

3. Despite what is shown in the table, Type 2 R44 does not always designate Phase II grant funding for a project in its second year. When a Phase I grant lasts two years and is then funded for Phase II, the new Phase II grant will be listed as Type 2 R44, but the project will be in its third year of funding.

4. Phase II funding for some SBIR grants lasts longer than two years. A Phase II grant in its third year or beyond (I have seen a couple of seven-year Phase II grants in the database) will be coded Type 5 R44. Same with Fast-Track funding after the third year: Type 5 R44.

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