A solicitation is an SBIR/STTR funding agency’s call for applications or proposals. Agencies use many names to refer to solicitations, including Request for Proposal (RFP), Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA), or just Solicitation. Regardless of the name, it describes what the agency is interested in funding and how to apply/submit a proposal. Solicitations are the only way to get SBIR or STTR funding. Agencies do not accept unsolicited proposals.
Solicitations are released throughout the calendar year. Some agencies only release once, while others release multiple times per year. The Department of Health and Human Services uniquely has 3 closing dates throughout the year when applicants can respond to its Omnibus SBIR/STTR solicitation. All of the other funding agencies have a single closing date to submit for a Phase I SBIR/STTR.
An SBIR/STTR solicitation is a large document. A short solicitation may have only 30 pages, but they can range to over 200 pages. These longer solicitations tend to include descriptions of the needs the agency has, which tell you as the applicant whether they are likely to be interested in your technology. That also means that the entire 200 pages does not apply to you, only the topics you are interested in and the general instructions.
These general instructions are made up of the Proposal Preparation Instructions, the Application and Submission guidance, and the Evaluation criteria. These are included in every solicitation. Following these instructions ensures that your application will not be rejected due to a technical issue such as including the wrong number of pages or missing a deadline. These instructions will also include information about individuals you can contact for clarification. As a rule, it’s always a good idea to talk to the Program Officer for a grant. Different agencies may have solicitations that look very distinct from each other, but they all have the commonalities described above.
Read more about SBIR funding.