Multiple state resources exist to help organizations discover, apply for and manage SBIR grants. These resources will help you overcome a few obstacles that are commonly encountered during the preparation and application process:
- Start the preparation process early. Deadlines can come up quickly, even if they seem far away. Be sure to start your project with ample time to get everything done. Typically a three month lead time is a good minimum recommendation, but this may vary.
- Research and sign up for all potential federal and state registrations. DUNS and SAM registration at the federal level are standard. Depending on the funding you’re going for, there may be additional federal registrations to get, state registrations to get, and/or partnerships you need to pursue.
- Develop a commercialization strategy. This is an explanation of how your technology or innovation will enter the market and add value to the economy.
- Assemble a team with both technical and business expertise. Grant makers want to be very confident in the effectiveness of the money they’re granting. Having a diverse team of people who can successfully navigate the challenges of technical innovation and scaling that tech—as well as business health and growth—will be critical.
- Understand how to develop the required budget. You can search for templates or hire an expert. Either way, be prepared to develop a budget specifically for the project. This budget format is a little different from any typical business budget, so develop this early and have it ready when you apply.
- Translate an innovative solution into a compelling work plan. Explain how the rubber will meet the road. Map out the entire process and leave nothing to the imagination. Explain how you’ll accomplish your goals—and the goals of the grant makers—with clarity and confidence.
Now we’ll dive deeper into a few of the state level programs that can be of assistance along the way…
Phase 0 Programs
Phase 0 is the pre-proposal stage. As of 2020, 23 states have this program. These programs provide support through pre-approved funds that can be used to reimburse expenses incurred by small businesses during the preparation of a federal Phase I SBIR/STTR proposal. Organizations providing this type of assistance include:
- Small Business Development Centers (SBDC)
- Departments of Economic Development
- Procurement Technical Assistance Centers (PTAC)
The organization(s) you approach should be determined by the type of assistance you need. For example, SBDCs can review your business plan and/or SBIR proposal, while a University might provide technical assistance.
Small Business Administration (SBA)
The Small Business Administration (SBA) designates and supports a nationwide network of Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs) and Small Business Technology Development Centers (SBTDC). SBDCs are one of the nation’s largest small business assistance programs, and are run by the federal government. Lead centers take the responsibility of subcontracting with specific service providers to provide no‐cost technical assistance and low‐cost training to small businesses within their regions. There are 63 lead SBDCs covering every state and region of the country. They are typically located within universities, community colleges, or longstanding economic development agencies. Advisors at the SBDCs and SBTDCs provide entrepreneurs and small business owners a variety of business and technology consulting, training services, and workshops including business plan development, manufacturing assistance, financial packaging and lending assistance, and pre-venture planning.
Procurement Technical Assistance Centers (PTAC)
PTACs offer seminars, classes and workshops on topics such as introduction to government contracting, small business certifications, and navigating the GSA’s System for Award Management (SAM). Procurement Technical Assistance Centers are designed to assist those businesses that want to work with the federal government and are capable of participating in the government marketplace. Services and benefits include free hands-on assistance with completing the registration for the System for Award Management, more commonly known as SAM, assistance with understanding a solicitation and its requirements, and help with analyzing certification opportunities for your business. Your local PTAC will also work with you to determine the most appropriate NAICS codes and descriptors to use in looking for bid opportunities for your firm, and can help determine if a specific certification option is right for you.