The following proposal writing tip was provided by Gail & Jim Greenwood. Past SBIR proposal writing articles written by the Greenwoods are available on the Greenwood Consulting Group, Inc. (GCGI) web site at www.g-jgreenwood.com.
SBIR Proposal Writing Basics: NIH Grant Submission Caution, DOE Deadline Looms
Copyright© 2012 by Greenwood Consulting Group, Inc.
A quick comment on the upcoming NIH grant deadline, and then we’ll delve into our main topic this month, which is advice in responding to the new Dept. of Energy solicitation/funding opportunity announcement.
!!!!!! NIH Deadline Caution !!!!!!!
As many of you know, NIH’s summer time grant deadline falls on August 5th each year. However, this year is different: because the 5th is a Sunday, so the deadline is pushed back to 5 pm on August 6th.
However, don’t conclude that this means that you can wait until the 6th to submit your NIH proposal. Remember that NIH grant submissions must be made via the grants.gov electronic application system. Unfortunately, grants.gov continues to suffer from a significant number of idiosyncrasies that may impact your ability to successfully submit your proposal. On virtually every deadline involving a grants.gov submission, we get a panic call from someone who is trying to submit their proposal and, for reasons unknown, it won’t work. The panic call to us generally comes after the proposer has made a panic call to the grants.gov help desk, which is backlogged with panic calls from other panicked submitters. Therefore, PLEASE do not wait until the last day to submit your NIH grant proposal–try to submit it a day or two in advance, so you can resolve any submission “issues” before the last minute.
DOE Phase 1 Solicitation
The Department of Energy has released the topics for its first FY2013 Phase 1 SBIR/STTR solicitation (aka funding opportunity announcement or FOA). The full solicitation comes out on August 13th. You have a critically important homework assignment between now and the 13th: you need to review the DOE topics/subtopics, find any that interest you, form the questions you inevitably will have about the “real meaning” or specifics of the topics, and strike up a dialog with the DOE staffer responsible for each topic to get those questions answered. Why do that now? Because once the full solicitation comes out on August 13th, you can no longer talk to the topic authors/representatives. Your only option at that time will be to ask your questions on line, which means both your questions and DOE’s answers will be posted for everyone to see. The problem with that your brilliant and insightful questions, and DOE’s helpful answers, are shared with every other firm that wants to submit a proposal on “your” topic.
To help identify the person(s) at DOE with whom you want to have the pre-August 13th dialog, you might want to participate in a series of webinars held by DOE on July 30 through August 1. Each webinar will feature DOE managers responsible for the FY2013 Phase 1 topics. These managers have only a few minutes to talk about their topics, and you probably don’t want to ask your great questions during the webinar, so consider following up with these managers prior to August 13th. If you miss the original webinars, they will be recorded and accessible on the DOE SBIR website.
A couple of other important points about the current DOE SBIR/STTR Phase 1 solicitation:
First, DOE is requiring a letter of intent from anyone planning to submit a proposal for the current solicitation. Unless you submit that letter by its September 4th deadline, you cannot submit a proposal. DOE used to require a letter of intent, then changed last year to a “pre-application” requirement, and now is once again requiring the letter of intent. This is an excellent example of why you have to read each new solicitation thoroughly, as the agencies make changes (and changes to their changes) constantly.
Second, you may be frustrated that DOE has no renewable or alternative energy topics in the current solicitation. DOE has decided to dedicate one solicitation per year to such topics, and its other solicitation to “other” topics of interest to the agency. This happens to be the “other” solicitation. If you want to apply for one of the renewable or alternative energy topics, you will have to wait for the next DOE solicitation, the topics for which will be released around October 29, 2012.
One final word of advice on the DOE SBIR/STTR Phase 1 solicitation: Although DOE makes its SBIR/STTR awards as grants, it acts more like a contracts agency–meaning that it has fairly narrow topics on which it wants to receive proposals. If your innovation falls outside of those topics, then don’t try to force the fit—either seek out another agency that might entertain your interests, or try to convince DOE that it should include a future topic in its solicitation that aligns with your interests.
Gail and Jim Greenwood may be reached at the following address:
Greenwood Consulting Group, Inc.
Sanibel, FL 33957
(239) 395-9446 (voice & fax)