Time to read: 3 min
If you’re a small business, SBIR/STTR can be an important source of funding. Below is some useful advice if you’re preparing an application or thinking of doing so.
Depending on the area in which you work and your resources, your approach to your application may be different. We’ve sorted applicants into 3 basic types below.
1. Highly Prepared Applicants
Some of the most successful applicants aren’t waiting for SBIR/STTR to release topics; they’re planting the seeds of their own. They use their relationships across various government departments and agencies to see whitepapers on the government’s needs. They then make suggestions to the right people, and work with them to create their own SBIR topics. Instead of hunting timelines, they constantly plant the seeds of new topics and ideas.
2. Prepared Applicants
Different agencies have different due dates, but what really matters is whether or not their topics change. The applicants in this category tend to stick with either the always-open SBIRs, or with agencies like the National Science Foundation, Health and Human Services, and the Department of Energy and the Air Force Dual use SBIR, whose topics may evolve, but do so within well-defined parameters, and thus seldom change radically. This means that applicants are never more than 4 months, at most, away from an application due date, as they don’t have to switch focus from one topic to another with every funding cycle.
3. Reactive Applicants
These applicants tend to focus on departments and agencies whose topics are generally released 30 days before proposals are due. The exception here is DOD which pre-releases their topics 30 days before the official release date. The purpose of this is to offer more time for vendors to communicate with and ask questions to the government. As topics seldom change after pre-release, the DOD essentially gives applicants 60 days to build their proposals.
- Do your SAM, SBIR.gov, agency-specific sites and DUNS registration ahead of time. Start it the same day as the RFP is released, if possible (or even before the RFP is released). This will give you at least 30 days to answer any questions the registration administrators may have. Questions from SAM or DUNS can delay your registration by weeks. And if you aren’t registered you can’t apply so it pays to get ahead.
- Ask your own questions of funders before the RFP is live. Line up communication before the 30-day clock starts ticking—because once the RFP is out, very little back-and-forth will be possible.
- Don’t attempt to reach out to a government official via Gmail or G Suite. Many US government servers will not accept any Google email, including from paid, named G Suite accounts. And never send attachments—they’re an automatic red flag to government servers. Outlook or a phone call are your best bet.
- Submit your application 48 hours before the due date. Portals can, and do, melt down and reject submissions on the due days.