Friday, November 21, 2008

SBIR Tidbits

The week after a National Conference is usually quiet, as everyone's in recovery mode from the intensity of three-days of SBIR information overload. With only time to take a few deep breaths, however, we do have a number of opportunities to pounce upon.

The DOD released new SBIR topics on the 12th, and until December 7th you can talk to the Technical Point of Contact (called the TPOC) for clarification of what the DOD is really looking for. The SBIR Coach strongly recommends that you take advantage of this opportunity if you're planning to submit a proposal. Find the topics that you're interested via the search facility on the DOD SBIR website or on the SBIR Gateway's search engine.

Homeland Security has released its new SBIR topics. There are only seven of them, but they're quite interesting -- especially the one looking for techniques to break password protection and unlock hard drives on computers. See them on their Website or on the Gateway.

The NIH is holding a free Webinar next Tuesday (Nov 25th) on how to deal with their electronic submission process in anticipation of the iminent arrival of the December 5th proposal collection date. As if wasn't enough to deal with, they also have their eRA Commons. The two of them together are enough to make a PI cry! Sign up for the Webinar at

And speaking of, the DOE has been forced to extend the due date for its Phase I SBIR submissions to Monday the 24th, as was brought to its knees and refused to allow uploads for hours yesterday, causing many, including yours truly, to not make the DOE upload deadline. Something is going to have to be done to make this system work better. It's a huge distraction to the process, one that demeans the importance of what's being accomplished.

Just want to wish everyone a pleasant Thanksgiving break. But for those of us working on NIH and NSF proposals due the following week, I betcha there won't be a lot of rest!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

SBIR National Conference Focuses on Technology Transition and Reauthorization

The SBIR Coach attended the National SBIR Conference in Hartford, CT, this week. The theme of the conference was "The Future is Innovation...The Future is Now!" Deb Santy, the SBIR Director of the Connecticut Center for Advanced Technology, and her committee put on a great show for we ~850 attendees. In addition to the standard presentations from sponsoring companies and Federal agencies who offer SBIR projects, we were treated to a special presentation, loaded with fascinating historical SBIR data, by one of the icons of the SBIR world, Ann Eskesen, President of The Innovation Development Institute. Ann was one of the creators of the SBIR Program back in the early 1980s. Her presentations are fast paced and intensive, and always leave me dizzy! Thank goodness she provided a copy for we attendees to study at our own speed!

We also had a presentation by Dr. Henry Lee, the renowned Forensic Scientist, who entertained us with his accounts of how powers of observation and thinking "outside the box" solved crimes and is actually the basis for Innovation. Very inspiring. Dr. Lee is an incredibly talented scientist and a fantastic speaker. He spoke to us right after lunch and no one dozed off! If you ever have the opportunity to hear him speak, jump on it!

The Department of Defense (specifically the Navy and the Air Force), The National Institutes of Health, NASA, and The Department of Energy all did extensive presentations on what they are doing to help guide the transition of SBIR-funded technology to commercialization. Highlighting their stories were representatives of most of the nation's prime contractors, companies such as Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, Northrop Grumman, BAE Systems, United Technologies, Sikorsky, Pratt & Whitney, Bell Helicopter, Battelle,

One of the highlights for everyone was a two-hour networking session patterned on the "speed dating" concept, where you exchanged business cards and information with someone across the table for 5 minutes, and then shifted to a new partner. I talked to two dozen very interesting people in that short time and expect that several of them will become clients. Everyone who participated was hoarse and worn out at the end of the session, but all were energized with the opportunities that arose in the discussions! A great concept, Deb! Thanks!

We also heard from Jere Glover, Executive Director of the Small Business Technology Council (SBTC), on the current status of the SBIR reauthorization battle in the Congress. Ann Eskesen and Rick Shindell, owner of The SBIR Gateway, also provided comments and perspective. In a small gathering after the conference day officially ended on Thursday, Jere, Ann and Rick also presided over a strategic planning session on how to mobilize support for guiding our legislators to do the right thing. The most important thing that we can do is inform our Congressional Representatives and Senators on how important the innovation enabled by SBIR is to the economic health of the nation. Jere promised to post some guidance for this communication on the SBTC website (, and Ann has extensive support data and information on her website ( Watch this Blog for updates and further guidance.

It is somewhat distressing that there is nothing yet scheduled for a 2009 SBIR Conference. One of the States has to step up and host this important event, and they need to start the planning for it now! Any volunteers?

Thursday, November 6, 2008

NASA and the NTTC Join Forces to Support SBIR Technology Commercialization

In my last Blog posting (on Oct 29th) I talked about things that the DOD is doing to support Phase III commercialization of SBIR-funded technologies. Today it's NASA's turn.

I had lunch today with two very interesting people: Carl Ray, the SBIR Program Manager for NASA, and Darwin Molnar, the VP for SBIR and NASA Tech Transfer for the National Technology Transfer Center (NTTC). We talked about the difficulties that small businesses face when attempting to transition technology being developed under NASA SBIRs to the commercial marketplace, and what's being done to aid that process.

Carl and I have been friends ever since he became NASA's SBIR chief back in the early 90s. NASA has always been focused on funding those SBIR projects that have the greatest likelihood of eventually being deployed into NASA systems. We've disagreed on some of NASA's communication policies, but have always agreed on one thing: Getting an SBIR project to Phase III must be actively supported. Companies need guidance in the culture change in moving out of R&D mode into commercialization, and they need the funding to get there.

NASA first turned to the NTTC for support to effect transferring space program technology to general marketplace utilization back in 1989. Some of the NTTC/NASA partnership successes include smoke detectors, CT scanners, GPS, and the cordless drill. Just a couple of years ago the NASA/NTTC team created the Small Business Innovative Partnerships Program (SBIPP) to provide direct support to "help small companies develop [SBIR-funded] research into technologies that both fit the needs of NASA’s mission systems and contribute to American quality of life through commercialization."

The SBIPP has been steadily improved as information has been added to the set of "portfolios" -- actually a CD highlighting relevant SBIR-funded technologies -- that are sent out to interested technology integrators, which include NASA Centers as well as interests outside of NASA. The most recent version of the portfolios actually includes applicable DoD SBIR technologies along with the NASA projects. Good stuff! To inquire about availability of the CD, contact Darwin Molnar. His contact information is on the SBIPP website ( which also contains a sample of what's on the CD. Check it out.

I asked Carl what was special about this effort from the NASA perspective, and he stressed the effort that's been made to express the technology's taxonomy in terms that avoid using NASA jargon. The commercial world should have a much easier time understanding what's being offered.

Carl and I did chat briefly about what the Obama victory might mean for the SBIR reauthorization process in the Congress. One thing seems certain -- Senator Kerry will probably be assuming a more prominent role in the new administration, and his Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee will be headed by someone else who might not have his same passion for SBIR support. (See Rick Shindell's analysis on his new Insider Report on the SBIR Gateway.) Carl did tell me that he'd prefer to not see the SBIR funding base raised (his NASA responsibilities are actually much broader than just SBIR and he doesn't want the SBIR percentage of his budget changed), but he'd not object to a raising of the funding caps -- so long as his Agency had the option to fund at a lower level.

Next week is the National SBIR Conference in Hartford, CT. The SBIR Coach will be there, and I'll report on "what's new" in next week's Blog.