Although they are not generally small business set-asides, Broad Area Announcements (BAAs) can be an R&D funding source for small companies to consider in addition to the various agency SBIR/STTR programs. The BAA is a competitive solicitation process used to obtain proposals for basic and applied research, as well as for that part of development that is not related to specific development of a system or hardware procurement. The BAA is described in the Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR) under “Use of Competitive Procedures” (FAR 6.102) and “Broad Agency Announcements” (FAR 35.016).
The Competition in Contracting Act (CICA) of 1984 authorizes use of BAA’s strictly for “basic research proposals” that attempt to increase knowledge in science and/or to advance the state of the art as compared to practical application of knowledge. It specifies that the BAA mechanism shall only be used when meaningful proposals with varying technical/scientific approaches can be reasonably anticipated. Under the legislation, BAAs must:
- Describe the agency’s research interest, either for an individual program requirement or for broadly defined areas of interest;
- Describe the criteria for selecting the proposals, their relative weight and the method of evaluation;
- Specify the period of time during which proposals will be accepted; and
- Contain instructions for the preparation and submission of proposals.
The primary basis for selecting BAA proposals for funding is technical strength, importance to agency programs, and fund availability. Cost realism and reasonableness may also be considered. Proposals need not be evaluated against each other since they are not submitted in accordance with a common work statement.
The centralized portal for locating BAAs is at grants.gov. To search for currently open BAA’s for which small businesses may conduct R&D, restrict the search fields:
- Opportunity Status to “Open,”
- Agency to the agency(s) of interest,
- Eligibility to “Small Business”, and
- Funding Instrument to “Grant.”
Once you’ve identified and selected a BAA, be sure you read the solicitation carefully to be sure you are eligible for it, it fits your company’s objectives and you have enough time to register, if necessary, prepare and submit. And as always, be sure to follow the rules!
Becky Aistrup is a Principal Consultant with BBC Entrepreneurial Training & Consulting