Step 8: SBIR proposal process – key personnel & resumes including subcontractors & consultants

Another overlooked area that is vital to the success of the SBIR proposal is key personnel and resumes.

Every agency SBIR proposal needs to designate a person who will serve as the principal investigator (PI). Some writers don’t name the PI until the very end of the proposal (resumes). By then it is too late. The Government will take a risk on the innovation, but will NOT take a chance on the qualifications of the PI. Put another way, the Government can live with proposed innovation not being feasible, but it cannot be due to the team’s incompetence.

Each agency has a different definition for the PI.

NASA summarizes the role of the PI as “planning and directing the SBIR project; leading it technically and making substantial personal contributions during its implementation; serving as the primary contract with NASA on the project; and ensuring that the work proceeds according to contract agreements. The PI’s resume should reflect credibility in each of these roles.

The PI must be primarily employed by the small business that is submitting the proposal.

  • NASA: PI must spend at least half of their total employed time with the small company.
  • Department of Energy: PI must devote at least a 130 hours to the Phase I project (and a minimum of five hours per week).

Agency requirements are constantly changing. Check with solicitation.

The Government must trust the qualifications of the PI (ability to innovate, to manage, and to conduct research).

Update resumes for each SBIR. In other words, tailor them to fit the specific SBIR — generic resumes get generic scores! Make previous work, experience and education relevant to the Work plan, Objectives, and the Innovation and:

  • Do not list every paper written, just the relevant ones.
  • Show experience in conducting research and in commercialization.
  • Confirm that the PI works for the company (the PI has to be full time).
  • Keep the resume simple (approximately two pages).
  • Explain any gaps in employment.
  • Include any business experience.

SBIR resumes typically have focused 99.9% on technology development projects. It should be 60% research, 20% technology development, and 20% business commercialization.

Use consistent resume formats for the entire team. Each resume should be carefully tailored to the project being proposed, and the collective set of resumes (along with qualifications of any subcontractors or consultants) shows to the reviewers that you have all the major bases covered. Consistent formats suggest that everyone on the team is on the same page. Also keeping resumes short and focused helps the reviewer see the relevant qualifications without having to wade through pages of irrelevant text.

Project personnel are a key ingredient.

  • Convince the reviewer that you are the best qualified to carry out the project.
  • Involve one or more expert consultants in your project.
  • Identify and obtain support from an industrial partner.
  • As the Principal Investigator, you are ultimately responsible for the project so how and why you are qualified must be described.

– Eric Adolphe


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