Thursday, March 12, 2009

"Getcha SBIR Stimulus Contracts While They're Hot!"

Now that the Senate has told the NIH, in no uncertain terms, to provide our nations' small businesses the full measure of SBIR R&D funding to which they are entitled under the law, we can turn to some other Stimulus opportunities for SBIR companies. Hold on to your hats, what I'm about to reveal may startle you....

If you peruse the ARRA Stimulus Bill you'll find something for just about every Federal agency. Every one of them of them has been given a pile of money to spend quickly. One of the problems these agencies are having is getting the stimulus contracts issued fast enough. Remember the whole idea behind this Stimulus deal is a quick infusion of capital into the economy.

Procurement law under Section Six (Competition Requirements) of the Federal Acquisition Regulations (The FAR) requires that, except for special circumstances, all Federal government contracts must be issued only after a "fair and open competition." That takes time and lots of effort on the part of the government procurement officers to create and issue RFPs and collect and evaluate bids before the contract can be issued. They'd love to have a way to bypass the competition requirement and just issue contracts. Well, guess what, we have a special circumstances solution for them!

We who are members of the Small Business Technology Council (SBTC), an arm of the National Small Business Association (NSBA), participated in a national conference call this morning. Our leader and SBIR advocacy mentor, SBTC's Executive Director, Jere Glover, laid out the following very simple strategy: leverage your SBIR awards into Phase III contracts with Federal agencies needing to spend stimulus funds quickly.

Here's how it works... It turns out that once you have a Phase I SBIR award for developing a technology, all subsequent government contracts (or grants) for work that "derives from, extends, or logically concludes" that work are SOLE SOURCE JUSTIFIED. This means that if you can find something that ANY one of the Federal agencies is looking to have done, and you have had an SBIR (or STTR) award that you can show has such a relationship to that desired work, you can call up that agency, find the procurement officer who's responsible for issuing stimulus contracts (here's a website that makes your search easier:, and let him/her know that you have a "sole source justification" for the work. The contract can be immediately issued to you, styled as a Phase III SBIR, without the need for a competition. Truly.

And, believe it or not, whether or not you've gotten a Phase II is completely immaterial to this discussion. Of course, you do need to have something of value to offer the government in this deal, and there needs to be a match with agency needs and company capabilities.

I'm not saying that this will be easy. You'll have to play detective. It may be a challenge to find the "wires" to connect for getting to the funds. If you have an internal agency champion they may have to help you in navigating that agency's process. They'll probably have to use the site themselves. But, the fact is that procurement officers in every agency have the responsibility to spend a LOT of money in a relatively very short time. Do whatever it takes to find them. They're motivated to make things happen.

We've already heard about one such contract issued -- The Department of Transportation issued a Phase III contract to a small business that had a DOD Phase I for some work that applied the same technology. Yes, it doesn't matter who issued the Phase I to you -- ANY other Agency can issue you a Phase III -- even ones who don't do SBIRs at all!

Get the idea? Yes, this is HUGE! GINORMOUS, as my granddaughter would say!

If you're not sure what a Phase III SBIR award is, download a copy of my SBIR Coach's Newsletter of Novermber 2008 that answers the question: "What is Phase III?"

Then download a copy of the ARRA Stimulus Bill from Search it for anything that one of the Federal Agencies needs that may relate to what your company has done with its SBIRs. Make some calls. Do some negotiating. Sign some deals. Get some money.

We do expect to see a Continuing Resolution introduced and passed before the March 20th SBIR expiration deadline, but it will likely be short term -- maybe 60 days. So we'll have some hoop jumping to do to get an acceptable SBIR re-authorization bill crafted, passed and signed, but we will git er done!

Jere has promised to put some additional information on all of this on the SBTC website: They put the really good stuff in the "Members Center" section, so please join the SBTC and help support our advocacy.

This ARRA deal is a short term opportunity. Make the best of it. "Getcha SBIR Stimulus Contracts While They're Hot!" (Opening day is just a couple of weeks away and I'm getting in the mood. Maybe this will be the Rangers' year! Someone please pass the mustard!)

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