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Strategic Partnering For SBIR-Stage Companies: What Motivates Large Companies to Partner?

April 1st, 2014 | by Michael Kurek

bridging-the-gapStrategic partnering is an important component of the commercialization plans of many SBIR awardees. This is the first in a BBCetc series of blogs on various aspects of finding, consummating, and maintaining a productive inter-company partnership.

From the perspective of the small company, the motivation seems both simple and obvious – the need for funding. However, whether an entrepreneur is simply chasing dollars or views alliances more strategically, he or she might be surprised that large corporations are even more interested in partnerships. A Booz Allen survey of 2,000 firms identified six reasons why big companies partner, including:

  • Accelerating growth
  • Accessing critical capabilities
  • Entering new markets
  • Building critical mass
  • Accelerating R&D, and
  • Reducing costs or capacity

Two or three of these goals can be pursued through partnerships with small technology companies.

Big company−small company alliances might be most common…and most successful…in the pharmaceutical industry. Merck claims to have “more than 50 actively-managed alliances currently underway.” That level of activity is understandable when the company reveals that approximately 60% of its revenue comes from alliance-related products and enabling patents.

As they struggle to build sophisticated products and get them to market faster, even large corporations are challenged by today’s accelerating pace of technological change. In response they must concentrate on their core competencies and on those areas where they can add significant value. As a result, other capabilities, including innovative technology and expertise, must be sought outside the organization. These market realities present opportunities to SBIR-stage companies that are able to position themselves correctly with a well-matched corporation.

Next time we’ll explore the most common types of strategic alliances and what, in addition to money, should motivate small companies to partner.


Michael Kurek, PhD, is BBCetc’s Partner in charge of commercialization planning.  He also provides SBIR/STTR consulting focusing on NSF,DoE, USDA, DoC, DoT, DoED, and EPA.

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Top five eRA Commons errors account for about 80% of total SBIR/STTR submission errors. Don’t Be That Person!

March 18th, 2014 | by Betty Royster

(Special thanks to Betty Royster and Matt Portnoy of the NIH SBIR/STTR program for their kind permission to reprint the informative post that follows.) Developing an NIH SBIR or STTR grant application requires a lot of hard work and multiple steps. Once you’ve written your application, you must be able to successfully submit it electronically

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Registration Reminder: Vegetables First, then Dessert

February 27th, 2014 | by Kris Bergman

Whether you’re a first timer or an old pro, the requirements for registering your small business with the various government websites can be as fun as a root canal. Each of the 11 agencies that participate in the SBIR/STTR funding programs has its own registration requirements; some are the same across agencies and some are

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Education is Focus of One Topic in New DoT SBIR Solicitation

February 10th, 2014 | by Michael Kurek

The Department of Transportation (DoT) released its latest Phase I SBIR solicitation on February 4 with a submission deadline of April 4, 2014. The solicitation lists six topics for the Federal Highway Administration (FHA), and three topics for the Federal Railroad Administration. Maximum Phase I awards range from $125,000 to $150,000, depending on the topic,

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Guest Blog: New Strategy Connects The Boeing Company with Innovative Small Businesses

January 6th, 2014 | by Adriana Ocampo

Teaming up with small businesses helps bridge technology gaps.Developing innovative technologies has been a catalyst for growth throughout Boeing’s history. As the company approaches its 100-year anniversary, a cross-functional team is working creatively with small businesses as one way to ensure that growth continues. The team is driving partnerships with companies that receive federal research

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‘Tis the Season…for Contracting Agencies

December 19th, 2013 | by Becky Aistrup

The three largest SBIR contracting agencies (NASA, DoD and DHS) have SBIR solicitations open this month. For those agencies that use a contract mechanism for their SBIR/STTR programs, rather than a grant mechanism (like NSF or NIH), this means you must be strategic in your planning and proposal preparation. For one thing, you can’t count

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Include Commercial Assistance in Your SBIR/STTR Proposal

December 3rd, 2013 | by Michael Kurek

SBIR and STTR funding is intended for R&D funding, but if your SBIR award is to have its maximum impact on your company’s development, the technology/product must be converted into a revenue-generator. Contradiction? Not at all. As it happens, your funding agency has the same goal and, as a result, several agencies (e.g., DOD, HHS,

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Not Just Letters of Support for Your SBIR/STTR Proposal…Letters of Commitment!

November 20th, 2013 | by Andrea Johanson

With the National Institutes of Health (NIH) SBIR deadline drawing near, don’t forget to include the letters from partners who will be included on your SBIR project. Partners include consultants, sub-contractors, key personnel and commercialization resources included in the proposal. Now, although called Letters of Support, these letters are really “Letters of Commitment”! They are

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Strategic Partnering for SBIR/STTR Companies: What motivates large companies to partner?

November 7th, 2013 | by Michael Kurek

Strategic partnering is an important component of the commercialization plans of many SBIR awardees. This is the first in a BBC series of blogs on various aspects of finding, consummating, and maintaining a productive inter-company partnership. From the perspective of the small company, the motivation seems both simple and obvious – the need for funding.

Read more »

Which NIH CSR Study Section should I request to review my SBIR/STTR proposal?

October 23rd, 2013 | by Becky Aistrup

You are probably aware that NIH gives you the opportunity to submit an “Optional” cover letter with your SBIR or STTR proposal. Hopefully you know that the cover letter really isn’t “Optional” at all if you want to receive assignment to the most appropriate CSR Study Section to review your proposal. So how do you

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