Many companies assume that eligibility equals competitiveness, but this is simply not true. We posted on this topic in 2016 (https://www.ebhoward.com/eligibility-≠-competitive/) but we still run across this misconception with clients today. There is more to determining fit for a funding opportunity than eligibility alone. Here are a few tips for ensuring your company has a competitive advantage.
- Register early: You will need your EIN and DUNS number to start. All registrations require that applicants be issued a DUNS number. After obtaining a DUNS number, applicants can begin both SAM, SBA Company registry, and eRA Commons registrations (https://public.era.nih.gov/commonsplus). The same DUNS number must be used for all registrations as well as on the grant application. If you aren’t successfully registered, you can’t submit your application. Having registrations complete well in advance of the due date will give you a competitive edge over companies that failed to complete their registration in time.
- Read the solicitation and preparation instructions: When you are done, read them again. Take time to truly understand the purpose of SBIR/STTR, the requirements, deadlines, and the focus of each solicitation. Understanding the expectations of what should be included and not included in a high-competitive proposal are key. Take notes and ask yourself, “Does the solicitation align with what I am trying to accomplish?” What are the submission deadlines? Can I get a high-quality proposal in on time? Researchers, entrepreneurs, scientists, and engineers often get excited about their ideas, but less frequently take the time to make sure the target agency is equally interested in those ideas. The Application Guide includes detailed line-by-line instructions to help you complete each page of the application form and prepare the text documents that get uploaded into it. This document is updated from time to time, so use the link above to open the current version. The single biggest reason that grants do not get funded is FAILURE TO FOLLOW ALL THE DIRECTIONS!
- Writing: As mentioned before, follow the guidelines for each section. Keeping to the guidelines will increase the likelihood of a competitive proposal. Provide enough detail so that reviewers fully understand what you plan to do, how you will do it, how you will know that you have done it, and the importance of doing it. Make the proposal easy to read, if possible, utilize white space between paragraphs, descriptive subject headers every paragraph or two, figures and charts to illustrate your points. Read the review criteria (in the Application Guide) and clearly address each major point. Reviewers use a checklist – make it easy for them to find the information they need to evaluate your proposal. Make sure the budget, budget justification, and all other sections match and support the proposed work. Get strong letters of support (LOS) (See more detail on LOSs here) from collaborators, business partners, and prospective customers. Ask somebody else to proofread the proposal before you finalize it.
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