November 30, 1999 in SBIR/STTR News

What Makes a Good SBIR Project?

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With the DoD 2008.3 proposal deadline fast approaching (Sept
24), NASA and USDA proposals due this Thursday (Sept 4), and the
be-here-before-you-know-it December deadlines for NIH and NSF, I thought now
would be a good chance to reflect on what makes a good SBIR project and what a
small business can do to about it. Clearly with the DoD and NASA topics that are mission driven, the
project ideas come from program requirements and larger master plans. NIH, NSF, Dept. of Energy and the more
public-centered agencies provide more flexibility and broader scopes to define
each SBIR project. Regardless of which
agency a proposal is for, the case for significance of the opportunity (aka “What
problem/need/requirement are you addressing?”) and what is the market potential
(including size, value, competition, buyer profile) must be considered during proposal

Reviewers will be evaluating for INNOVATION, not
evolution. Repackaging existing
technologies, integrating off-the-shelf components, or resuscitating previous
technologies that never caught on are probably not going to get very far. Program managers, reviewers, end-customers-
they all want new, novel, unique approaches to solving daily problems faced at
home, in the office, on the battlefield, or anywhere in between. (*Notice, I did not say that they are looking
for complexity, that is up to you and
your technology.*) Successful SBIR
technologies were usually considered highly risky when first awarded. By the end of Phase II, approximately 3 years
after initial award, the technology is matured to a point that potential
customers can see the value, development partners see the potential, and/or
investors are ready to join.

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