More Hints for writing and winning Small Business Innovative Research Proposals

Last week I gave the top 10 pieces of advice I give my protégés concerning the small business innovative research (SBIR) program. There is a lot to this program and it can be very valuable to a small business but it can also be a large time-waster if not done correctly. I received several requests to say more so here are some additional things to think about as you prepare proposals.

1) Never throw away a proposal you lose. There will be plenty of opportunities to resubmit good ideas in subsequent solicitations. I have had several proposals rejected, just to be accepted by other organizations in later years when similar topics re-appeared.

2) Here is another reason not to throw away those old proposals. Section 1,2 & 3 make a good basis for a technical white paper. Once you spend the time to write the information/idea down, don’t throw it away. Make your old proposal into a white paper to submit under broad agency announcements (BAA) and for other marketing purposes. The fact that you were not selected does not mean the idea is a bad one…it just wasn’t the right time and place for it.

3) Consider teaming with a large business up front in phase I. Especially when you are very small having the backing of a large business partner strengthens your proposal by reducing risk. Unless you are a very special small business, you are going to need a large partner sooner or later anyway. You might as well bring them in up front. This also does something else that I find helps your strategic partnering goals. By taking an opportunity TO a potential strategic partner and not just going in with a hand out asking them to give you something you establish yourself as an asset rather than just another drain on their resources.

4) Although I have spoken mostly about the SBIR program, consider using the STTR side of the program because the win probability for an STTR proposal is much higher than that of an SBIR. In the STTR program you team with a university on your idea. This program is explained on the Internet in several places.

5) Give all of your employees an opportunity to submit ideas for SBIR/STTR proposals. I find that I tend to submit proposals for topics in the same technology areas all the time because that is what I know. Last year we put a technology submission page on our employee portal that gives any employee a chance to submit an idea for consideration. This has opened up several new technology areas to us that we never would have considered before.

6) If you really look at the solicitations you will see that much of the SBIR/STTR proposals contain boilerplate information. If you are smart you will prepare a template where much of the information is identical regardless of the topic being submitted. Especially from sections 4 through11. I also am able to reuse most of section 2 every time. That means that by rewriting sections 1 and 3 and making some minor changes in wording in a few others I can generate a whole new proposal in one afternoon. That also makes it easy to get others to submit ideas—just have them write the introduction (1.0) and technical section (3.0) and you can add all the boilerplate. This makes it much more likely that you will receive inputs from other employees because they don’t have to worry about the program plan and other boilerplate sections.

7) I mentioned that you can write solicitation topics for your customers in my last post on SBIRs however I didn’t mention that I always ask new customers that I meet if they are involved in their organizations SBIR program…either in producing solicitations, or evaluating them. Many times if they are not directly involved they will know who, from their organization is involved and give you an introduction.

If you are not familiar with the SBIR/STTR program it is probably worth your time to investigate it. If you win any SBIR/STTR you can use it in the future to get sole-source awards…even after you become a large business by breaking the 500-person barrier. Because the award of an SBIR or STTR is considered a competitive action you in effect “own” that technology from that point forward. If you have any questions about the program or how I use it just leave a comment and I will be happy to respond.

Dr. Andy


“Cognitive Psychophysicist with an interest in almost everything”

FOOTNOTE: It was suggested to me by a very astute employee that I add a sentence or two each time I add an article to the blog to highlight one or more of our most pressing current open hiring requisitions. These can be found on the BRC website at BRC Employees that refer someone that is hired to fill one of these open positions will receive a minimum referral bonus of $1000 (after tax). Here is today’s featured open position:

JSEG Science and Technology Software Engineer (Senior Level)

Job Code: 18-ESSCA-041
Location: Huntsville, AL
Clearance Required: National Agency Check

Job Description/Essential Functions:

Bevilacqua Research Corporation (BRC) is a Service Disabled Veteran Owned, Small Business based in Huntsville, Alabama incorporated in 1992. BRC provides “best-value” technical and management solutions to a diverse government and commercial customer base in the following key business areas: test & evaluation, systems analysis & integration, security & intelligence, and R&D.

Software Engineer to support the NASA ES52 Space Systems/Software Department. The selected candidate will also be a part of the Science and Technology team working with C/C++ programming language supporting the core Flight System (cFS) in support of the X37 Test Bed. The core Flight system (cFS) is a platform and a project independent reusable software framework and set of reusable software applications. Come join our team on the Engineering Services and Science Capability Augmentation (ESSCA) contract!

Minimum Requirements:

A degree in engineering or related field from an ABET accredited institution is required. The educational requirement is a BS degree with a minimum of 14 years of experience. The candidate should be experienced in the following.

Technical qualifications include:

  • Strong software development skills in various languages (preferably C and C++)
  • Good written communication skills. Comfortable writing technical documentation, such as user manuals and design descriptions.
  • Have a working knowledge of Linux based operating systems such as Fedora, Ubuntu, or RedHat.
  • Have a working knowledge of Microsoft Word, Power Point and Excel.
  • Proof of U.S. Citizenship is required.

Other Job Information (if applicable):

Desirable experience would include:

  • Experience with software modeling.
  • Network experience to include installing network drivers and working with wireless devices including the definition of local network software communication architectures.
  • Experience with Python, Perl, Linux and bash or similar shell scripting language s such as bash.
  • Experience working with time based systems.

To apply for this opportunity or see what other open opportunities are available at Bevilacqua Research Corporation, please visit our careers page at

Bevilacqua Research Corporation. is an equal opportunity employer Minorities/Females/Disabled/Veterans and VEVRAA federal contractor. We recruit, employ, train, compensate, and promote without regard to race, color, religion, sex, national origin or any other basis protected by applicable federal, state or local law.

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