Subject Matter Experts: What You Know Vs. What You Don’t Know

  • February 16, 2021

Everyone has a unique skill set and knowledge base, but no one is an expert at everything. Sometimes when developing a product or growing a business, we feel like we have to do everything ourselves, but that is simply not so. It is ok to ask for help, and part of assembling a strong team means selecting various experts to create a diversified knowledge and experience resource base to have at your company’s disposal. The majority of small businesses rely on various subject matter experts in some way throughout their research and development journey. A great place to use this resource is in hiring advisors, consultants, and sub-award Institutions for your Small Business Innovation Research projects.

You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know

Often in the case of research and development, especially with SBIR projects, there is an aspect of the research project that is unfamiliar to the small business concern’s core team. Instead of viewing this as a barrier, view it as an opportunity to collaborate with a trusted subject matter expert to make your proposal and your project that much stronger. Many subject matter experts play an advisory role on proposals rather than taking on a portion of the hands-on work.

PI Experience and Subject Matter Expertise

In numerous cases, we have witnessed clients without directly related experience act as PI on a funded project despite the strict parameters under which reviewers judge previous experience as a measure of potential success on future projects. How did they accomplish this? By getting the right advisors, sub-awards, consultants, and subject matter experts on their team. Reviewers do not expect the PI to know every nuance about the subject matter involved in the project. They do, however, expect the PI to build a well-rounded team of experts with relevant experience as it relates to the proposed project.

During your proposal preparation, take an honest look at the past experience of all team members involved. If it could strengthen your team or your project, consider hiring a subject matter expert to enhance your team.


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