If you are the owner of an innovation-focused #smallbusiness, chances are good that you are aware of federal funding for small business innovation. Detailed below are some quick tips and recommendations from us on how better prepare for federal funding such as SBIR/STTR. These may seem really simple and obvious, but really do make a difference in increasing your likelihood of funding success.
Tip #1: Read and follow the instructions
This sounds silly to say but wouldn’t have to say it if people (this includes some grant writers as well as entrepreneurs) did not omit this very important step. Read the directions. Yes, all one-hundred-thirty-something pages. Read them well, read them twice if you have to. If the directions say a document can be up to 250 words, make your document 250 words. Not 251, not 700.
Neglecting to follow the directions and formatting can disqualify you before the reviewers even have a chance to thoroughly learn about your idea or innovation.
All SBIR solicitations have links to up-to-date instructions and guidelines. These will give you explicit details on how to prepare your proposal, what information to include, what size and style fonts to use, and when to submit your application. If you are unsure of something, each of these solicitations has agency contacts attached, and if you are (annoyingly) persistent with your calls and emails, usually someone will answer.
Tip #2: Ensure that you are eligible
Since you read suggestion #1 and plan to thoroughly read the directions within the solicitation, you will know the exact eligibility requirements for your chosen SBIR solicitation, but here are a few general rules regarding eligibility.
- The company has to be based, at least from a majority standpoint (that’s 51%), in the U.S.
- The smallbusiness must be a registered business entity with an EIN and DUNS identification number.
- The business must have a product or idea that is innovative and has a larger impact on society or industry overall.
- Some other guidelines may include location, the field of study, and revenue earned to date.
Also, make sure SBIR is a good fit for you. If your product is very niche, not scaleable, is retail/consumer commodity-focused, or does not bring an innovation of some sort to the table, chances are SBIR is not the funding line you should be pursuing. There are plenty of other opportunities for this sort of product.
Tip #3: Enlist the help of experts
Find people who have experience and a proven track record in their field to complete aspects of your proposal and project that you do not have the credentials to complete. You may be the best CEO ever, but if you are not an engineer and your proposal involves engineering, all the CEO experience in the world is not going to inspire confidence in the reviewers.
Find experts for research, testing, commercialization, engineering, and for creating the proposal itself. Market research is another avenue where it pays to hire an expert. These experts do not have to be key personnel in your project. They can be advisors or consultants. In addition to specialized skills for specific jobs, use experts in any situation where you are not an expert on the subject matter yourself. If you guess on information or try to deceive the reviewers, it is likely you will not win the award.
Tip #4: Proofread your proposal
Nothing takes away from a great idea like poorly written language and incorrect punctuation. Even when we think we are dotting our “i”s and crossing our “t”s, it is good practice to re-read, and then re-re-read important documents such as your grant proposal. Even better, enlist your experts from tip #3 to copyedit your proposal for you! Check not only spelling, punctuation, and grammar, but also formatting such as required font and margins.
So there you have it, the basics to SBIR preparedness. There is so much more to learn about the world of federal grants, but hopefully, this information has served as a crash-course on getting ready to throw your hat in the ring. Remember to read directions, outsource tasks requiring expertise, determine eligibility, and edit perfectly. The odds are small, the process can be frustrating, but the payoff is well worth it. Good luck.
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