Gone are the days of cut, copy, and paste in the proposal development field, and to be honest, I am not sure that it ever existed. Instead, it is just a metaphor for how increasingly competitive the development field is today. That is why it is more important than ever to know your funding market and your funding competition. Here are some great tips to ensure that you are eligible AND competitive for funding:
- 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 (See more detail here). 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.
- 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. 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 proof-read the proposal before you finalize it.
Following these tips does not guarantee success, of course, but it will leapfrog you over the many applications that are doomed to fail because of procedural oversights.
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