NSF Ups It's Commercialization Game
Within the SBIR/STTR community NSF has always been recognized as a leader in stressing the importance of commercialization in its SBIR/STTR programs. In recent years this emphasis has been reflected in the requirement for evidence of market validation for the proposed technology even in Phase I proposals, and in the establishment of NSF's Innovation Corps program targeted to recipients of its academic research grants.
NSF's recently-released SBIR and STTR solicitations, with submission deadlines in June 2014, continue this trend by requiring a new structure for Phase I proposals. The core of the proposal document is still the 15-page "Project Description" but the presentation is changed significantly. Commercialization is now front-and-center.
Following a one-page summary that describes the customer, the value proposition, and the innovation, NSF wants to see several issues addressed in detail, including:
- The Market Opportunity (2-4 pages recommended)
- The Innovation (1-3 pages)
- The Company/Team (1-3 pages)
Only after the applicant company has laid out its plan to commercialize the results of the proposed project, is it asked to describe the actual technical plan of work. This new scheme, which emphasizes the customer as much as the technology, presents a heightened challenge for applicants.
In our opinion it will no longer be sufficient to describe the problem being addressed strictly in terms of technical performance. More than ever the proposal must convince the reviewers that the applicant understands the problem, and the inadequacy of available solutions, from the end users' point of view. That in turn will require a much deeper analysis of the customer needs, the market environment, and the competitive offerings.
This change might represent simply the latest step in an ongoing trend in the NSF programs. However, the outstanding question is how this altered focus will be reflected in the reviewers' evaluation of proposals and recommendations for funding. Regardless, BBC supports NSF's increasing focus on the commercialization aspects of SBIR/STTR projects since commercialization is not only the objective of SBIR/STTR but also of every small business that applies.
Strategic Partnering for SBIR-Stage Companies:
What Motivates Large Companies to Partner
Strategic partnering is an important component of the commercialization plans of many SBIR awardees. This is the first in a BBCetc series 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
Did you know that the top five eRA Commons errors account for about 80% of total SBIR/STTR submission errors?
Don't Be That Person
(Special thanks to Betty Royster and Matt Portnoy of the NIH SBIR/STTR program for their kind permission to reprint the informative article 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 and error-free so NIH can review it.
Take some time to review these top five eRA Commons submission errors in advance of the next NIH SBIR/STTR deadline on April 7, 2014. Doing so will help save precious time and ensure your application moves forward for review.
Please use the Annotated SF424 Form set for SBIR/STTR applications
along with these tips to guide you during the electronic submission process. The annotated form set provides step-by-step instructions of which fields to complete and aligns with the information below.
Error #1: Each Senior/Key Person listed must include effort of value > 0 in calendar months, or academic and summer months
- It's okay to put 0 dollars (no salary), but NOT 0 effort.
- Be sure to describe the source of key personnel funding in the Budget Justification if $0 salary is listed.
All application attachments must be in PDF format
- Use simple PDF-formatted files (no Word files)
- Do not use Portfolio or similar feature to bundle multiple files into a single PDF.
- Disable security features such as password protection.
- Keep file names to 50 characters or less and use only. letters, numbers, underscore, hyphen, space and period
- Use meaningful file names and follow guidelines for fonts and margins.
- Do not include headers or footers. Continue reading...
NASA Extreme Environment Challenge Open to the Public
The NASA Extreme Environment Challenge, which focuses on technologies for survivability and sustained operations in extreme pressure and temperature environments, is currently seeking inputs from the community.
Centennial Challenges are prize competitions that directly engage the public to help advance technology needed by NASA that benefits the nation.
Tapping the ingenuity of the public opens the field to people with different interests and backgrounds. Teams are free to approach challenges with unique ideas that often lead to game-changing innovations.
The challenge has an advanced thermal management and electronics and mechanisms, and power storage and/or generation. The first phase is expected to be thermal management in order to reduce requirements on the remaining subsystems.
Participants may compete in any one, or multiple phases of this challenge. Partnering is encouraged.
BBCetc is nationally recognized for its expertise in helping technology-based entrepreneurs win federal funding through the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs and use it strategically to propel growth. Its Michigan clients have been awarded over $120 million in funding since 2002. BBCetc capabilities include:
- Commercialization Planning
- Research Grant Assistance
- SBIR/STTR Training
- Grants/Contracts Management
- Tech-Based Economic
c Development Programs
Copyright © 2014 BBC Entrepreneurial Training & Consulting, LLC
SBIR/STTR Basics & MI Commercialization Resources
Apr 2 - Houghton, MI
Proposal Prep for NSF
Apr 8 - E. Lansing, MI
Commercialize Your Technology!
Apr 10 - Kalamazoo, MI
Proposal Prep for NIH
Apr 15-16 - Newark, DE
May 19-20 - Chicago, IL
Proposal Prep Essentials for DOD, NSF and NIH
Apr 16 - Toledo, OH
Proposal Prep for DOD
Apr 29 - Troy, MI
- ABC's of SBIR/STTR FundingApr 29
- SBIR/STTR for Startups: Bulding a Quality TeamApr 30
- DOD Solicitation: Topics and Components ReviewMay 6
- Submitting to DOD? Learn to Talk the Talk!May 7
- Budget Prep for DOD
| The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)
SBIR solicitation, originally scheduled for October 2013, is now open. Proposals for solutions to technology challenges in the areas of cyber-physical systems, cybersecurity, health care, manufacturing and technology transfer can be submitted until the deadline of May 2, 2014. NIST also announced that it will offer SBIR awards as cooperative agreement grants, rather than contracts, which allow for more flexibility in how companies can address the technology challenges. As always, be sure to read the solicitation fully to ensure compliance with grant rules and procedures. View solicitation
NCI SBIR Phase IIB Bridge Awards
This FOA solicits SBIR projects applicable to: (1) cancer therapeutics; (2) cancer imaging technologies, interventional devices, and in vivo diagnostics; or (3) in vitro and ex vivo cancer diagnostics and prognostics. View solicitation
NIH now has a Q&A page
for the Nat'I. Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) U44 SBIR solicitation for clinical trials. Link to Q&A page
New to the NIH grants process?
Watch the YouTube video
, "The NIH Grants Process: the Big Picture," designed to help you get started on the road to NIH funding. This video provides a high-level overview of the grants process from application to award.