Some years ago I was chatting with the then Dean of the College of Engineering at Georgia Tech about some of the changes that had been implemented to make that school more “student friendly.” One of these was a free tutoring service that was available to all freshmen. Georgia Tech had found that this tutoring service was not being used by the students who were struggling and really needed it, but by good students who were using it to get even better.
Those of us in the ATDC who “tutor” companies in applying to the SBIR and STTR programs often wonder why more companies don’t seek our help. I believe there are a number of reasons including:
- Companies wait until the last few days to write their proposal and therefore do not have time to get it reviewed and make changes. I often did this with course work while a college student and that’s a prime reason I was a “C” student. Well a “C” will not get you very far with SBIR because the competition is submitting “A” work. Even companies who have won SBIR awards in the past could be more successful with a little more lead time and some help.
- Those who come from academia are often experienced in submitting research proposals and do not think they need the help. The biggest problem here is that SBIR proposals are different than the pure scientific research that university faculty have proposed in the past. Without some help these otherwise successful people fail by not adequately covering the equally important commercialization portion of the proposal.
- A variation of the above is companies that have smart people who believe they can figure it out by themselves. Yes, eventually they can. We all know that we can learn from our failures, but successful people more often learn by the failures of others. We can help with those lessons.
- Companies have secrets that they don’t want to let anyone else know, sometimes their technology, their market strategy or their salaries. Well, since the company is going to reveal these things to the federal agency anyhow, wouldn’t it be better to do so with a proposal that has a better chance of success? If we had been revealing company secrets, we would have been run out town long before now and most successful people understand this.
- Some people do not want to hear frank and honest feedback, particularly about their “baby”, the technology that is going to be the next greatest thing. Most successful people welcome unbiased frank and honest feedback. So if they want to avoid our feedback, we don’t mind them not seeking our help. They can get their feedback from the federal agency after they waste time and effort in putting a failed proposal together.
If you and your company do not fit in one of the above categories and are interested in applying for funding under the SBIR or STTR programs, contact John Mills, Julie Collins or Connie Ruffner who provide detailed guidance in this area.