November 30, 1999 in SBIR/STTR News

Definition of “Commercialization” means different things to different agencies

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“What I am supposed to put in this commercialization section?” for this SBIR proposal. Have you asked yourself this question while writing your proposals? Have you asked the Georgia SBIR Assistance Program this question as you are preparing your proposal? Have you tried to search the web to find an answer, only to generate more questions and still would what direction you should pursue? Hopefully I can give a little help and provide some useful context to help answer that question.

Like all the great mysteries of the modern world, the honest answer is “It depends.” The definition of “commercialization” is determined by the agency that the proposal is going to. Synonyms for commercialization strategy range from “transition plan” for the DoD, to “infusion strategy” for NASA technologies, to productization and the traditional definition of selling to the public for NSF and NIH technologies. So what does this mean when developing your proposal strategy and themes- don’t forget who the customer/user of your agency’s technology is.

The DoD wants to defend and protect by equipping the US warfighter with the most advanced technology available. The commercialization strategy should explain the size of the market potential (units and value) in the DoD market. Ultimately the strategy describes a transition plan for moving the technology to an acquisition program that will put the technology in the warfighters’ hands. A short description of how the technology could transition to civilian operational environments is an added perk, but probably not the primary focus of the section.

NASA SBIRs/STTRs are trying to achieve a vision of exploration, terrestrial science, aeronautical advancement, or space operations. Their end users are typically NASA scientists and engineers that are executing projects to accomplish these visions. Infusion is the process of transferring the technologies developed under SBIR/STTR into a NASA mission to accomplish the vision of the project. There may only be one or two actual instances of the technology needed to accomplish the mission, but if there is a technology that will meet that need, that is a commercial success for NASA SBIR. Again a public application of the technology certainly supports the case for NASA investment in the SBIR project, but if you do not map out a path for how NASA can put the technology to use, you could be missing the customer with the real need.

Most of the other agencies have a much more general public focus. The end user of an NSF, USDA, DoT, or NIH SBIR sponsored project is Mr. Joe Smith that you meet on the street, work with in your office, or visit when you have a particular need that technology can provide or improve. Developing commercialization strategies for these agencies typically means committing to a derivative of a licensing model or product development plan for delivering the innovation into the general markets. Competitive analysis, market sizing, pricing, development plans, and launch activities need to be briefly addressed to qualify your understanding of the value of the technology and to convince proposals reviewers that you know what it is going to take to make this innovation a reality.

Keep these ideas in mind as you are preparing your NASA and USDA proposals for the Sept 4 deadline, the next round of DoD proposals that will be posted the end of July and closes Sept 24, or the NIH and NSF proposals that will be submitted in December.


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