SBIR competition tip

Tell how

SBIR Phase I solicitation instructions always emphasize presentation of details in the work (or research) plan and usually state that the work plan should constitute a substantial portion of the total proposal. The solicitations also instruct proposers to tell what will be done and how the work will be carried out. For example, the NSF instructions for the Phase I Research Plan state, in part: “The description should include what is planned and how the research will be carried out.” The USDA Phase 1 Work Plan instructions say “… and indicate how and where the work will be carried out.”

Work plans in draft proposals we review usually say what is to be done but often do not convey how the work proposed will be executed. Similarly, formal comments from agency review processes highlight this deficiency. Providing the how as well as the what information in the work plan is essential (though not sufficient) to achieve excellence in the proposal presentation, and to secure the best chance for a win.

Crafting a detailed and well thought out work plan that provides the what and how (together with other required information) is hard work. For example, it is much easier to say simply that “temperature will be measured” without providing details how the temperature measurements will be made — what instruments, what test facility, what range, etc.

Careful, persistent, and disciplined teamwork is the best way to achieve a quality work plan and proposal. While some highly skilled and experienced veterans may be able to prepare a high quality work plan (and proposal) in one or two passes, most mortals require an iterative process that includes multiple critical review cycles.

Critical proposal reviews by experienced reviewers will identify voids in the work plan (and other parts of the proposal), and identify especially the need for more definition of HOW proposed work is to be performed. The proposal preparation team must then respond to the needs identified by the critical reviews, and fill the voids. Our experience suggests that one review and rework cycle takes about a week, and that four or five of these cycles generally leads to a high quality work plan and proposal.

So, describe how proposed work will be executed, in addition to saying what will be done. Describing how proposed work will be done is key to a high quality work plan and proposal, and for achieving a good chance to win!

Source: Wyoming SBIR/STTR Initiative (WSSI)