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Be sure to have a vision for your project

June 18th, 2015 | by Michael Kurek


Over the next few months, many of our readers will be considering and/or busily preparing SBIR/STTR proposals for various agency solicitations that are or will be opening. In preparation for its upcoming SBIR solicitation, the USDA presented a webinar on program basics that included some good advice for those pursuing Phase I SBIR/STTR grants across all the participating agencies. We’ve embellished each point with some added thoughts and advice:

Sell the importance of your project

  • It all starts with the problem to be solved. The world’s sexiest technology applied to a trivial problem is not the recipe for a competitive SBIR project.
  • Besides you, who else thinks the problem is important? Support your argument with published studies, expert opinion, statistics, etc.
  • The problem should also map to the target agency’s mission and program priorities.

Provide a vision of where you want to be at the end of Phase II

  • All the agencies want to see a solution with IMPACT. New products/technologies often take time to diffuse into widespread use. Adjust the time horizon of your vision accordingly. Don’t hesitate to look beyond the end of the Phase II project if necessary.
  • Be realistic in describing what the agency’s million dollars will buy. Depending on the problem and the technology a successful Phase I/Phase II might deliver a working prototype.

Focus the Phase I research on critical enabling factor(s)

  • A useful definition of feasibility can only be developed in the context of a technical solution to a specific problem.
  • Feasibility usually is connected to what’s most innovative about your proposed approach.
  • Ask the question: What must I prove to convince a technically-knowledgeable skeptic that my proposed approach might work?
  • Focus your Phase I activities on generating that proof.

Provide a detailed experimental plan

  • Reviewers want to understand not only what you plan to do and how, but also the basis on which you’ll conclude that you’ve succeeded. This is where the convincing definition of feasibility comes in and why you must present Success Criteria that are as quantifiable as possible.
  • Include detailed descriptions of your approach for those areas that highlight your strengths as a team and your technological innovation. If you have a novel approach that makes you stand out, include that information, but not details of routine experiments.

Provide insight into commercial potential

  • Billion dollars markets do not guarantee commercial potential. First, convince me that your product/service creates value for the individual grappling with the problem you’re solving. Then you’re halfway there.

Show connectivity with the communities you are intending to serve

  • Collaboration is also important in the commercialization phase. Do you have an effective working relationship with the individuals and organizations that understand the problem from the users’ perspective?
  • Make sure you articulate the business model your company will employ to bring the product to the marketplace, i.e., what will you do and what will you partner with others to do? Provide evidence that you have validated your approach with those potential partners.
  • USDA, for one, encourages R&D collaborations…with universities and government labs…and with other companies.


Michael Kurek is a Partner, BBCetc

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If You Build it, will They REALLY Come?

May 29th, 2015 | by Michael Kurek

The review criteria for successful SBIR/STTR proposals typically emphasize an innovative technology solving a significant problem in the market. What this means is that, to be successful, companies must present: A sound technical approach, in tandem with, A credible commercialization strategy Too often, entrepreneurs and scientists involved with early-stage companies focus their proposal development energies

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April 27th, 2015 | by Becky Aistrup

(Re-running this timely post that bears repeating…) The Dept. of Defense issued its 2015.2 SBIR pre-solicitation on April 24, opening a 30-window during which you can talk directly to its Technical Points of Contact (TPOCs), before proposals may be submitted beginning on May 26. Why bother talking to a TPOC? Here’s why: The TPOC is

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Tips for Resubmission of Unfunded NSF Phase I Proposals

April 9th, 2015 | by Michael Kurek

Unlike Phase II proposals, NSF allows resubmission of unfunded Phase I SBIR and STTR proposals…but only if “substantial revisions” have been made in response to the reviewer comments. The current solicitations (SBIR closes June 16; STTR closes June 18, 2015) instruct applicants who are preparing a resubmission to include a one-page Supplementary Document entitled “Resubmission

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Sub-award or Fee for Service: Know the Difference for Your SBIR/STTR Proposal

March 2nd, 2015 | by Andrea Johanson

Whether they’re preparing an SBIR/STTR proposal for the April 5 NIH deadline or for another agency, one of the most confusing issues that companies face in preparing their project budgets is whether a relationship with an external organization should be a sub-award or a fee-for-service. It’s common in an SBIR, and required for an STTR,

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Start Your SBIR/STTR Budget by Knowing the Basics

February 9th, 2015 | by Kris Bergman

What’s your opinion? Does your SBIR/STTR project drive the budget or does the budget drive the project? Yes, this is a trick question. Actually, an appropriate budget is one that is in harmony with the proposed work, serving as an important guidepost in assessing a project’s feasibility in light of company resources. So the answer

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January 16th, 2015 | by Jayne Berkaw

We prepared our top 10 tips to have at our display table at the National SBIR/STTR Conference in Austin, TX, last November. We received lots of nice comments on it and with 2015 just getting underway, we thought it a good time to share them on our blog. 1. TEND TO THE BASICS EARLY Take care

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Policies & Procedures are a Must, So Buckle Down and Get it Done

October 24th, 2014 | by Kris Bergman

Most Policies & Procedures (P&P) manuals sit in a corner collecting dust and are pulled out only as a reference of last resort. But take note, SBIR/STTR applicants and awardees, agencies expect you to have P&Ps in place to serve as your bible for managing your funds and activities. And practically speaking, if you ever

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Market Research is Key to Commercialization Success

September 26th, 2014 | by Michael Kurek

Articulating a compelling commercialization strategy in your SBIR/STTR proposal is more important than ever for funding success. A credible commercialization plan must be built on a foundation of current and relevant information about the commercial opportunity you’re pursuing. The process of gathering, analyzing and interpreting that information is called Market Research. Market research is used

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Check Out New Subtopics for Latest NSF SBIR/STTR Cycle

September 3rd, 2014 | by Michael Kurek

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has released its latest SBIR solicitation with a submission deadline of December 2, 2014. We can expect the STTR solicitation to be coming shortly. In the meantime there are some new technology subtopics that you should check out: Biomedical Technologies (BM) BM5. Noninvasive Imaging of Brain Function Educational Technologies and

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