Left to Right: R. Vinson (NIH), C. Hebron (DOE), Dr. R. Smith (USDA), and J. Williams (SBA).

Wow, I really can’t describe how informative this event was. Thanks to HTDC for putting this together. Agencies such as the Department of Defense, National Institutes of Health, US Department of Agriculture were in attendance to help us understand the purpose of Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR). Basically, the US Government has about $2 billion every year to jump start research & development for small businesses who are trying to innovate. Slices of the budget is allocated based on problems different agencies want to solve.

Throughout the two days, every agency who had a representative reiterated that if you will be applying for SBIR funding, you should read the solicitation and understand what is being asked. There is plenty of rules (like font size, # of pages) that helps decision makers process all the applications. It made sense. If a company is applying for a cut of SBIR dollars (per year, mind you), put in a little effort to understand your customer (a government agency in this case).

Typically, a government agency will be checking the application for 5 criterias:

  1. Technical merit – Is it logically possible to execute the solution?
  2. relevancy – Will this solution fix my problem?
  3. Commercialization potential – Is it possible to distribute this technology to the masses?
  4. Innovation – Is your solution something they have not seen before?
  5. Principle Investigator Credentials – Do you have someone to see the project through?

One of the biggest things I learned is the bureaucracy is in place because it is the public’s money. Every dollar has been allocated based on policies we as a country have deemed appropriate. To make sure that decision makers are choosing appropriate solutions, the processes are in place to help identify the best solutions. At the end of the day, we’re all humans and we have to make an effort to empathize with everyone’s situation. Know your customer.

I can go on and on about the two days, however, there’s plenty of resources online. You can start by visiting https://www.sbir.gov/. If you do need help understanding the perspective, feel free to holler and we can talk story.

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