NSF Seed Fund

Applying service design and lean methods to attract more diverse, highly-qualified technology innovators to apply for grants


The National Science Foundation wanted to attract more diverse, qualified applicants for their SBIR / STTR grants. I led the Discovery research and uncovered inbound funnel problems that consequently repelled qualified applicants. Moreover, potential applicants had negative perceptions about SBIR / STTR grants.

The redesigned site repositioned the grant as “seed funding” and boasts a clearer, founder-friendly value proposition.

Service design

In collaboration with the stakeholders, we conducted applicant interviews (target and active) from which we were able to piece together journey maps and a comprehensive service blueprint of the end-to-end application journey. These artifacts allowed us to identify expectational mismatches between the target audience and the product offering and systemic problems within their processes. The findings helped inform priorities, including delivery of a more simplified, transparent timeline-based application process on the site.

Shown below is a very early version of the service blueprint with confidential information redacted.