November 30, 1999 in SBIR/STTR News

Understanding a Rejection

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So you didn’t receive an award.  Now what?  Is this a dead end?  Maybe…but then again, maybe not. 

Can you determine why you didn’t receive the award?  Remember, these are human beings reviewing and selecting awards—some internal and some external to the agency—they know what they are looking for in a proposal and you need to know what they want. 

If the idea is good and the science behind your proposed solution is good, reviewers will often give you information which will help improve your chances for a future submission.  Some agencies will allow you to resubmit the same proposals—once you have made their suggested improvements.  Some agencies will not allow you to resubmit the same proposal, but the knowledge gained from a reviewer’s comments will help you with future submissions—check with the agency on their re-submission policy.

Here are some common reviewer comments:

  1. Doesn’t address the agency’s needs
  2. Doesn’t address the topic
  3. Overly-ambitious for the timeframe
  4. Work plan is unrealistic
  5. Poorly written & presented
  6. Not innovative—research already done by others
  7. Investigator (s) inexperienced
  8. Unconvincing case for commercialization/societal impact
  9. Problem is more complex than proposer seems to realize
  10. Lack of focus
  11. Commercialization potential is week
  12. Lacks letters of support from potential customers and/or investors

So, how do you know what the reviewer thought? Get a copy of the debriefing/review from the agency.  Some agencies will automatically send you these comments; some you will have to request (NOTE: some agencies have a brief time window when they will accept requests for comments—know your agency).  Even if you receive the award, you should get a copy of the reviewer’s comments to help you improve on your Phase II proposal and future proposals.  Look at the comments: Are they something that can be addressed (AND corrected) for future submissions?  If so, think about modifying and re-submitting or mark it down as experience for future submissions.  Remember, one in seven proposals gets selected; you might receive funding the first time, but then again, it might take a few tries.  Don’t give up.

Contact one of us to review your concept and your proposal.  We are experienced reviewers and can help you see areas for improvement.

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