Step 7: SBIR proposal process – commercialization plan

The commercialization plan in the Phase I proposal has gotten increased attention with the SBIR Reauthorization Act.

Congress has specifically challenged the DoD to more quickly bring SBIR innovations to the war fighter. Some agencies like NSF also wants you to include a 3 to 5 page discussion. NSF Also wants at least one (preferably three) letters of support for the technology. Letters (not from techies, should “demonstrate that the company has initiated dialog with relevant stakeholders (potential customers, strategic partners or investors) for the proposed innovation and that a real business opportunity may exist should the technology prove feasible.”

Some agencies are now using commercialization experts on Phase I proposal review teams. So, commercialization must be addressed in Phase I and not afterthought:

  • Who/What will benefit from the success of this work.
  • Develop either a general or specific pathway to commercial use.
  • Provide cost analysis data.
  • Have solid data for the conventional technology.
  • Provide an estimate of how new process costs-out.
  • Introduce future plans.
  • Give an outline of where you go after this project.
  • Develop a plan of how you will interface with an industry partner.

An important commercialization issue is that agencies have different definitions of commercialization:

  • Most agencies expect the user to be the agency or a related entity.
  • DoD view is that it means making it available for internal use, with special emphasis on getting innovations to the war fighter. Private sector use is of secondary importance.
  • NSF’s view is that commercialization is private sector only.
  • NASA’s view is that it should be both internal use and outside of NASA (including other Government agencies).

Read the solicitation very carefully and write commercialization plan accordingly. Evaluate each of the differences before writing the commercialization plan.

Consider the size of the Phase III opportunity before you decide to pursue a Phase I. Also, consider the company’s core competencies and determine if the SBIR can be used effectively to obtain contracts without further competition.

Just because a topic is in the SBIR solicitation does not guarantee there is a profitable market, or even that the agency will use the technology internally. You may have to find other markets outside of the agency to make commercialization of your SBIR financially viable.

A final tips:

  • Show that you know the competition.
  • Show that you know the market.
  • Targeting Market “Influencers” In the Commercialization Plan.
  • Don’t Look Like an SBIR Mill.
  • Don’t pick topics that have little commercialization potential.
  • When disclosing previous SBIRs, note that the Government is very leery about companies who win Phase I and Phase II proposals and then stop.
  • Show what you have done (especially if you have invested your own funds) towards commercialization of prior SBIRs.

– Eric Adolphe


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