4 “Must Haves” to Launch a Successful SBIR/STTR Project

Wondering if you are ready to take on the challenge of preparing an SBIR/STTR application? Here are four key must haves to help you determine if your project is a fit for the program. While not an exhaustive list, these four items provide a starting point.

  1. You must have an actual company. This may sound intimidating but really it just means you must declare the existence of the entity to the powers that be, most importantly the state in which the company was founded and the IRS. Once you file, you must secure an Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the IRS. This is required to complete the necessary registrations in order to submit an application to any of the 11 SBIR/STTR agencies.
  2. You must be able to identify the point of innovation. Whatever you proposing to develop—a widget, service, technology, system, method, whatever—must be innovative. And, you must be able to define, clearly point out and articulate the innovation to reviewers. I-N-N-O-V-A-T-I-V-E! There must be something novel, new, risky, something sexy, something mysterious about what you are developing. Incremental improvement is not enough. Adding features, tweaking an existing product on the market or creating a copycat competitor is not innovative.
  3. Your project needs to fit the Phased Development model of the program. Let’s face it: the only reason anyone would or should ever do a Phase I application is to get to Phase II. So make sure project allows for Phase I, Phase II and Phase III development. Otherwise, you are putting in a ton of time and rolling a lot of dice for a short-term project with a limited budget. Phase II is where the magic happens (2 years and $750,000+), so plan accordingly.
  4. There must be an identifiable commercial market. Someone must want to buy what you are developing. The end goal is commercialization and if you are going to successfully commercialize something, you have to know who the customer is—even in Phase I. It’s important that you know and understand your market and begin to consider your commercialization strategy even in Phase I.

While still not a guarantee the SBIR/STTR program is right for your project and company, these checking these four items off your list will certainly get your game off to a great start!