Step 6: SBIR proposal process – writing about relevant experience

Most SBIR proposal writers misunderstand what is being requested in the Relevant Experience section of the proposal.

They submit boiler plate past performance write ups with little if any edits. However, consider the DoD’s instructions:

 “Related Work section should include “significant activities directly related to the proposed effort, including any conducted by the Principal Investigator, the proposing firm, consultants, or others. The proposal must persuade the reviewers of the proposer’s awareness of the state-of-the-art in the specific topic.”

Here are some useful relevant experience writing tips:

This section should describe briefly the experience of the proposing team that is relevant to the proposed topic.

The team includes anyone, either the employees or consultants or subcontractors. Make sure that there is a balance between the prime and its subcontractors, university partners, or consultants. The ideal is to show that the majority of experience is with the small business.

Highlight the work performed by the Principal Investigator (PI), because you want to take this opportunity to sell the reviewer on the appropriateness and qualifications of the PI for the project. Identify specifically what the PI had done. The Government wants to know why the PI is right for the project.

Demonstrate to the reviewer that you know the state-of-the-art or the significant contributions that others have made in this area. The Government does not want to fund a company who is unaware of what others have done, because he/she wants you to learn from others experience and build on it (and also to avoid any pitfalls others have discovered).

Resist the temptation to over-describe the state of the art. Avoid long winded descriptions. The reader wants to read enough to know that the company is up to speed. They likely already know the state of the art.

On the other hand, don’t be too narrow in your description of the state-of-the-art. Don’t just cover what others have done in the area of your proposed innovation, and don’t just cover what others have done to try to solve the problem you are working on – you need to cover both.

– Eric Adolphe


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