We frequently meet with clients who want to know some of the most effective tips for increased chances of success in receiving SBIR funding. We have been posting on this topic since 2016 (https://www.ebhoward.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=1658&action=edit#:~:text=https%3A//www.ebhoward,a%20new%20tab).
Here are 6 things to consider before applying to SBIR/STTR:
1. Know the funding likelihood
No matter the agency or funding line, even if it is not #SBIR, you should know what you are up against regarding likelihood. You should be fully aware of how many grant awards a funding agency intends on awarding and you should be fully aware of how many applications they receive vs. they actually fund. Ask yourself, is the funding opportunity you are looking at a long-shot or realistic and achievable?“Are they only awarding 4 across the country or 200? How big is their budget this year? Can they afford to award all proposals? As of two years ago, the following was true for #SBIR:
- Among the Phase I proposals submitted annually, only 6% to 19% are funded with some agencies have a higher funding rate than others. This means there is an 81% to 94% chance of NOT getting funded.
- Among the Phase I proposals submitted annually, approximately 25% are first-time winners. This means 75% have submitted a proposal unsuccessfully in the past.
2. 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?
3. The 30-Day Rule
We strongly recommend that the process of applying (the application and the proposal) for any federal proposal begin 30 days or more prior to the due date. If you are considering #SBIR/#STTR and the deadline is less than 30 days away; don’t go near it. There are too many moving parts related to the application itself, not including a highly competitive proposal that needs attention, that need to be in place before it is submitted. For example, if your proposal is due September 5, proposal preparation should have begun August 5th or earlier. [We will not take on a project that is less than 30 days away from the deadline. We do not feel comfortable prepping a project in a hurry and would be concerned that we would miss something. It definitely would not be my best work.] The sweet spot is 30 days or more prior to the due date.
4. Call the program officer or key contact person listed in the solicitation
Talk to them about why you think your organization is a fit and what they are looking for in a proposal. Most importantly, I recommend that you put together a list of questions to ask during the call. Be advised, don’t ask them questions that can be easily answered by reading the solicitation or preparation instructions. Clarification questions are one thing, but questions regarding page length and format will not go over well.
5. Check out previously awarded SBIR proposals
Even though you are in strong alignment with the SBIR funding solicitation, has something like what you are trying to do or accomplish been done? Has this agency funded something like this before? Looking at the previously awarded proposals will give you a good idea of the type of proposal the agency is looking for in terms of quality and focus.
6. Start collecting Letters of Support
Often there are criteria on how many LOSs you can submit and who’s LOS you can include in the proposal. Collecting LOSs should begin right away and not something that can wait until the application deadline. I recommend taking a similar approach to LOSs as proposal preparation (see #3 above); begin to request LOSs 30 days or more prior to the due date. There is more on how to collect LOSs HERE from previous posting “Best Practices for collecting Letters of Support for SBIR proposals.”
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