Many tech entrepreneurs have innovative ideas and are looking for grants to help commercialize these ideas. Naturally, turning to SBIR/STTR grant program is a natural first step for these entrepreneurs. But is SBIR/STTR Program right for me?
Some applicants think that SBIR/STTR is all about innovative R&D. They are wrong.
Others think SBIR/STTR is all about commercialization. They also are wrong.
SBIR/STTR is about both R&D and commercialization.
Phase 1 of an SBIR or STTR project is defined as a feasibility study of an innovative new approach to a problem or opportunity.
But the SBIR/STTR agencies are becoming increasingly focused on Phase 1 projects that (a) have potential for commercialization success and (b) are proposed by small companies that have the drive, vision, and ability to commercialize them.
First, before you start writing, you need to be able to describe the innovative nature of your proposed solution to the problem. What is new, unique, different, outside-the-box? Is this on the right side of the crazy/innovative fence? Will a reviewer who is up-to-speed on this field agree that what you are proposing is truly different than what others have done? If not, then this probably is not a good basis for a Phase 1 proposal.
Second, we recommend that you give some thought to the commercial potential of that innovation. Assume for the moment that it will prove feasible: who will care? Who becomes the customer, what are they buying right now, are they so dissatisfied with the status quo and/or so enamored with your innovation that they will change their buying habits? Will you sell enough units at high enough of a profit to make any money at this in Phase 3? Be honest with yourself when answering these questions, because there are tons of innovations out there that do not have much commercial potential.
Third, if you conclude that your project is both innovative/technically risky and has good commercial potential, THEN decide to go forward with preparing your Phase 1 proposal.
Give both innovation/technical feasibility and commercialization adequate consideration in your Phase 1 proposal, and you will improve your chances of getting reviewers’ support for your project.