Strategic Partnering for SBIR-Stage Companies:
Strategic Partnering for SBIR-Stage Companies: Finding Your Strategic Partner
This is the third in a BBCetc series on various aspects of finding, consummating, and maintaining a productive inter-company partnership. Part one / Part two
In many ways, the process of finding the right strategic partner is not much different than finding the right customer for your product. Both involve identifying and understanding a problem. Finding the
right customers means identifying and solving a problem they have. Finding the right strategic partner means identifying and solving a problem you have.
Perhaps you need access to funding, critical resources to accelerate R&D, or manufacturing expertise. Can these or other "problems" be solved through partnering? Is that the best alternative? If so, what value will your company bring to the relationship?
As in any negotiation, you want a clear idea of your own objectives, their relative importance, and how far you're willing to compromise away from those priorities.
Identifying prospective partners will be easier if you first define concrete screening criteria, such as, size, location, market focus, and track record. A good rule of thumb for an early-stage company is to identify more than one prospect, but less than 10, unless you're willing to make a substantial time commitment to the process. The best matches are between partners with common interests but complementary skills. This situation gives the small company the chance to make a unique contribution to the relationship, or at least one that's not easily replaced.
Many corporations have departments or groups that serve an "intake" function. They have various names: business development, in-licensing, technology scouts, new initiatives, and so on. If your prospect has no designated front door, T.A. McCann, co-founder of Rival IQ
, suggests targeting the marketing manager. This individual is not only the most knowledgeable about what's happening on the ground but also has the resources to make things happen within the organization.
Dealing with large companies can be a frustratingly slow process but after an initial expression of interest, the pace will allow you to do the necessary due diligence before your selection. Both sides can benefit from a measured approach, especially if it is combined with a smaller "test" project to assess compatibility and mutual trust.
No matter how well it seems to be going, leave the rose-colored glasses at home. The reality is the majority of large company/small
company alliances are unsuccessful, so you'll want to have a contingency plan in place.
Michael Kurek, Partner, BBCetc
Telling your story: Formatting and Readability Tips for SBIR/STTR Proposals
For the purposes of your SBIR/STTR proposal, the reviewers comprise your primary audience. Your #1 job is to make them want to read your proposal and then make it easy for them to do so. With that key objective in mind here are some tips to get you started:
- Use a clear and concise writing style so that even a non-expert can understand the proposed research. Scientific American style is recommended by the NIH.
- Avoid emotion or exaggeration. It's fine for others to laud your research, but not so fine to blow your own horn. Keep it simple; let it speak for itself.
- Use proper technical writing for an academic/scientific document.
- Don't use lots of jargon, elongated and preposterous words. "If you are already using words like phenotype, mitochondrion, cosmic inflation, and Gaussian distribution, you really don't want to be effulgent or felicitous as well."
- Avoid acronyms. Not everyone reading your proposal will be an expert in your very specific research area, and acronyms can destroy the flow of the text and be confusing.
- Follow the law of "less is more" in your use of words. Check out the table at right for examples.
DoD Issues 2014 Rapid Innovation Fund
The Department of Defense (DoD) has issued a Broad Agency Announcement
(BAA) seeking proposals under the Rapid Innovation Fund (RIF) program to transition innovative technologies that resolve operational challenges or save costs into existing acquisition programs.
The RIF Program was established to facilitate the rapid insertion of innovative small business technologies into military systems or programs that meet critical national security needs. RIF also intends to facilitate innovative technologies that show a clear transition path to fielding the technology into existing defense acquisition programs.
The BAA lists the technology areas of interest for each participating component, instructions for submission of white papers, and source selection criteria. Subsequent RIF proposals will be invited based on the evaluation results of the white paper submission. Those selected for RIF awards may receive up to $3 million in funding. The period of performance for RIF awards shall not exceed 24 months.
Participation in the DoD RIF BAA is open to all responsible sources capable of satisfying the Government's needs; however preference shall be given to small businesses capable of transitioning innovative technologies. The open period to talk to technical points of contact (TPOCs) is until June 23. White papers are due August 8. If invited, full proposals are due Feb. 13, 2015. For TPOC contacts and other information, click here
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What to Do -- and What Not to Do --
to Get Your Technology in Front of DOD
Chad Darr, Director of Product Development for Loc Performance Products, Inc. knows a thing or two about getting products in front of the Dept. of Defense. Located in Plymouth, MI, Loc is an SBIR awardee and a full-service manufacturer of large CNC (Computer Numerical Control) machined components and mechanical assemblies for military and commercial applications.
Typical Loc products include custom geared drives, suspension road arm assemblies, generator components and subassemblies, and precision machined components for power transfer applications. The company's customers include every major Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) of military ground vehicles for both wheeled and tracked vehicles along with several S&P 500 companies for off-highway industrial products.
We tapped into Chad's experience for some advice on what companies need to do to get their technologies into military systems. Here are some tips he listed for us:
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- Establish a relationship directly with the Acquisition Program within the government that buys the system that would benefit from the technology.
- Establish a relationship directly with the prime contractor of the system that would benefit from the technology.
- Coordinate discussions with the prime and Acquisition Program with the R&D project if it is an SBIR-funded effort. Read on
Online Resource Puts SBIR/STTR Awardee Information All in One Place
At BBCetc, we often advise clients seeking SBIR/STTR funding that one way to learn what kinds of technologies are being funded by an agency is to search prior years' awards. It is also a powerful way to identify prospective technology partners. Most participating agencies make information about prior awards available online, but AutoHarvest.org, a non-profit formed in 2010, has consolidated awardee information from the major agencies (DoD, HHS, NSF, DoE and NASA) in a single, fully searchable place on their website. The list of over 87,000 technology funding awards to small companies and universities enables users to search by agency and branch or institute as well as by year awarded. And, with the click of a button, users can contact awardees privately to learn more and explore possible collaborations.
AutoHarvest is the first to develop a truly neutral online meeting place for innovators of all types with an interest in advanced manufacturing intellectual property. This meeting place allows users to showcase capabilities, technologies and needs system-wide and then privately connect with fellow inventors and
marketers to explore technology and business development opportunities of mutual interest. For more information about AutoHarvest, visit autoharvest.org
or email email@example.com
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Virtually all technology companies, including SBIR/STTR firms, need to be concerned with protecting their intellectual property. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office makes a variety of tools available to get you started:
- IP Awareness Assessment The Intellectual Property (IP) Awareness Assessment has 10 categories covering various aspects of IP and the questions in each category have been formulated to discover the participant's overall IP awareness. The first question in each category is broadly designed to determine if the category is relevant and if the individual taking the assessment needs additional information and training in the category. If the response to the opening question of a category indicates that the individual is aware of the information covered in the category or if the category is not relevant or applicable, the assessment will skip to the next category. If you are not sure of the appropriate answer to any of the questions within the category or if you would like additional information you can choose "not sure" or the option that may indicate that you are not fully aware of the specific area in a category. Click here for more IP tools.
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who we are
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. BBCetc capabilities include:
- Commercialization Planning
- Research Grant Assistance
- SBIR/STTR Training
- Grant/Contract Management
- Tech-Based Economic Development Programs
Our New Address is: 2155 Jackson Ave, Ste. 2, Ann Arbor 48103
Copyright © 2014 BBC Entrepreneurial Training & Consulting, LLC
Formatting & Readability Tips
for SBIR/STTR Proposals
Innovation Fund Solicitation
What to Do and Not Do to
Get Your Technology in Front
Awardee Info in One Place
New Biosketch Format for
eSubmission Tips from NIH
> Upcoming Solicitation Dates
SBIR/STTR 101: Intro and Overview
July 16 - Kalamazoo, MI
Proposal Prep for DoE
August 11 - Ann Arbor, MI
Proposal Prep for DoD
August 12 - Sterling Hts., MI
August 14 - Dayton, OH
- What You Need to Know About Gov't. AuditsJune 12
- SBIR/STTR for Start Ups: Building a Quality TeamJune 17
- Formatting & Readability Tips for SBIR ProposalsJune 18
- Practical Strategies for Indirect Rate DevelopmentJune 25
- QuickBook for SBIR AwardeesJune 26
- USDA Program Overview with Program Leader, Charles ClelandJuly 8
- Tips on Electronic SubmissionJuly 9
- Policies and Procedures for SBIR Awardees
Nat'l. Science Foundation STTR 14-540 - closes June 11
HHS (NIH, FDA, CDC, ACF) PHS 2014-2 Omnibus - Closes August 5
USDA SBIR will open in June (TBA) with an October 2 deadline.
| bbcetc news
View Lisa Kurek's recent webinar "What New SBIR Policies Mean for Venture-Backed Businesses"
for Connecticut Innovations. Lisa explains the nuances of the changes to the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program as a result of the 2012 federal SBIR reauthorization, paying particular attention to their impact on small businesses that have received or are considering venture capital, private equity or hedge fund investments. If your company is seeking SBIR funding and private capital, you will benefit greatly from the insights she shares. View webinar
| from nih
Submitting to NIH this August? Here are a few quick submission reminders heartily endorsed by BBCetc from the NIH OER Communications Office:
> Watch out for form fields required by NIH that are not marked "required" on federal-wide forms (e.g. Credential for PD/PIs and Organization for all entries on R&R Sr/Key Person Profile form; primary site DUNS on Project/Performance Sites form).
>Submit early - days, not minutes - to allow time to correct unforeseen errors.
>Track your submission in eRA Commons. Email can be unreliable.
> Check your entire assembled application image in eRA Commons. If you can't view it, they can't review it!
If federal system issues threaten your on-time submission, you need to notify the help desk and follow the Guidelines for Applicants Experiencing System Issues
New Biosketch Format Coming for NIH Proposals
This month, NIH will launch a second round of pilot tests of their new biosketch format
for SBIR/STTR proposals. After a first round conducted last year, this round will involve more applications and include surveys of both reviewers and applicants.
According to an article in the NIH Extramural Nexus, the new format "emphasizes researcher accomplishments instead of just a list of publications. The primary focus of the new biosketch will be the magnitude and significance of the scientific advances associated with a researcher's discoveries and the specific role the researcher played in those findings. This change will help reviewers evaluate you not by where you've published or how many times, but instead by what you've accomplished." Read on