If you heeded my advice last month, you’ve already read the solicitation completely 2-3 times, so now it’s time to talk about Writing. I imagine you are now staring at a blank sheet of paper wondering where on earth to begin.
Pick up the solicitation again and look for a section called “Technical Proposal”, “Proposal Format”, “Project Narrative”, “Research Plan”, or something similar (agencies differ in what they label this section)—this section will be the over-arching outline for THAT AGENCY’S requirements—you will need to adhere to these guidelines as you write your proposal so keep these in mind, but I’m jumping ahead; it’s not time to start writing the actual proposal—yet.
By now, you’ve already asked yourself some questions and you’re pretty sure you know the answers—at least in your mind:
· What do I want to do?
· Why do I want to do it—is my idea a good solution?
· How am I going to do it?
· What is the expected outcome?
But you’re still staring at that blank page, right? Start by outlining your solution:
1. First, write down the EXACT problem that needs to be solved (in one sentence)—this will either be spelled out in an agency’s detailed topic or it will be identified by you, but must fit within an agency’s broad topic or institute’s mission (know your agency!).
2. Write down (again, in one sentence) what your company is going to attempt to create/develop to try and solve this problem. For example: “XYZ Company will attempt to solve ______ problem in this SBIR Phase I Study by developing/creating a new _____”. This is the hypothesis for your proposed research.
3. Next, list the 3-5 technical objectives that must be tackled to prove your hypothesis—in other words, what are the major technical risks/unknowns that need to be addressed? Keep these simple, clear, and realistic for the time frame. Remember, YOU are defining “feasibility” through your selection of objectives.
4. Now, under each objective, write down the 4-8 specific tasks or tests you and your research team will do over the period of the award to address that objective. These are the things you MUST do to carry out your objectives and will be the meat of your research.
You now have an outline, but before you jump into writing your actual proposal, take the time to review this outline and modify if needed. Give it a few days and then look at it again. Show it to your research team and make sure it matches your concept: Will these tasks actually allow you to meet your objectives? If you complete your objectives, will the objectives truly prove the feasibility of your solution? Do your objectives meet the expectations of the agency? Can you realistically complete all of the tasks in the time and budget caps? Most importantly, will the outlined research lead to a solution of the problem you wrote down at the top of the page?!?! If not, modify your outline.
Once satisfied with your outline, THEN you can expand what you outlined and begin composing the actual proposal.