Back in March I blogged about — and sang the praises of — the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program and its companion STTR program. Together, those Federal programs provide nearly $2.5B of non-dilutive grant funding annually to technology start-ups and other small businesses. As I pointed out, there’s a regional “SBIR deficit,” meaning that while Pittsburgh’s universities are doing well at garnering Federal research dollars, the region is falling short when it comes to capturing funding from the SBIR programs. Collectively, we are leaving over $10M of NIH SBIR funding on the table, funding that can be acquired with some work.
Some entrepreneurs I’ve talked to are unconvinced that SBIR grants are for them. For instance, they say, “I don’t know enough about them.” Well, on June 19th in the heart of Oakland, your crash-course in all things SBIR awaits. Several state and regional entrepreneur support organizations have teamed up to bring the Federal government’s “SBIR Road Tour” to Pittsburgh. No fewer than 14 representatives of agencies including DHS, DOD, DOE, NSF, NIH, NASA, and USDA will be here to explain their programs and describe them in detail. Through panel discussions, they’ll also share insider information like common mistakes made by proposers and how to better align your business to SBIR topics. Most importantly, you’ll have the chance to have one-on-one meetings with these SBIR program officers.
Other entrepreneurs have told me, “SBIR’s are hard to win.” I point out that there are several counterexamples. But if you still don’t believe me, in one of the afternoon sessions, you’ll get to hear from several local entrepreneurs who have been very successful with the SBIR program: four companies that collectively have received over 50 grants totaling nearly $25M. Maybe better still, the other session will be a panel discussion among people who have actually reviewed SBIR proposals on behalf of the government. If anyone understands how the game is won, they do.
A third complaint that I hear often is, “I’ll have to write a proposal to the government.” Hmmm. Very rarely do we get anything without asking, and just about every funder requires a proposal. True, an SBIR proposal has specific format and content requirements, but they actually aren’t much different than what an angel, VC, or institutional investor would need. My initial rebuttal to the complaint is every company has (or needs) strategies, plans, and roadmaps, and it’s from that body of thinking that all proposals are and can be derived. Further, assistance with SBIR proposal preparation is available.
An important source of that help is none other than Pennsylvania’s Innovation Partnership, aka, the organization that is bringing the SBIR Road Tour to Pittsburgh. IPart’s programs include micro-vouchers for “buying” proposal development assistance from seasoned SBIR veterans, as well as pre-submission reviews of draft SBIR proposals. IPart’s new website www.innovationpartnership.net also has links to SBIR program solicitations from all of the Federal agencies.
You can register – and should soon, because space is limited and the seats are going fast – for the SBIR Road Tour in Pittsburgh at innovationpartnership.net/event/sbir-road-tour-coming-to-pittsburgh-pa/. The Pittsburgh Life Sciences Greenhouse and just about every regional entrepreneurial assistance organization will be on hand.
SBIR Road Tour – – See you there.
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