$625,000 in state matching grants advance 8 high-tech small businesses

$625,000 in state matching grants advance 8 high-tech small businesses

MADISON – Eight innovative small businesses in Wisconsin will receive matching grants to commercialize their innovations, thanks to the SBIR Advance program’s latest round of funding. Seven businesses, selected for Phase I, will receive up to $75,000 each, and one Phase II business will receive up to $100,000.

The state matching grant program provides assistance to companies in the process of completing a project in the . This is the 12th round of SBIR Advance funding since this collaboration by the and the began in 2014.

Since then, 78 awards have been given, equaling nearly $6 million throughout the state. Those businesses reported hiring more than 175 employees and obtaining over $24 million in additional capital since receiving the grants.

Phase I recipients:

  • of Madison is dedicated to the development of advanced quantitative MRI test objects (“phantoms”) that meet the needs of the MR clinical and research community. Their mission is to build phantoms that facilitate clinical trials, quality assurance, and the development and testing of new quantitative imaging biomarkers;
  • of DePere specializes in the design, engineering and manufacture of compact heat exchangers and heat exchange reactors targeted for high temperature and pressure applications such as Brayton-cycle supercritical CO2 power systems, treatment and recycling of fracking wastewater and process intensification for energy and chemical markets;
  • CyteGen of Wauwatosa develops and commercializes innovative biologic therapies against mitochondrial and neurodegenerative diseases. A massive unmet medical need exists for patients afflicted with these diseases;
  • of Madison is building an advanced AI+data technology so that everyday business users can get meaningful insights from data by simply holding a conversation in English with the platform. DataChat democratizes the power of data and AI to everyone, including and especially to those who are not majors in statistics, math or computer science;
  • of Wauwatosa has been devoted to developing various nanotechnology-based electronic sensors since 2009. NanoAffix is currently working to empower citizens with a low-cost, easy-to-use handheld tester for rapid testing of lead in tap water;
  • of Shorewood aims to help power the wireless world while making it a safer place for users of lithium ion batteries. SafeLi’s novel, patented material, Graphene Monoxide, has the potential to disrupt the lithium battery market by doubling the lifetime of these batteries and charging them six times; and
  • Voximetry, LLC of Middleton is an early-stage healthcare technology company that specializes in commercializing improvements related to nuclear medicine dosimetry. The patient-specific approach can accurately predict efficacy and adverse effects of radiopharmaceutical therapy.

Phase II recipient:

  • of Marshfield  provides sample preparation technologies used in microscopy laboratories for clinical pathology, drug development and basic research. Their mPrep™ System has improved workflows for specimens from Ebola virus to renal biopsies.

“SBIR Advance will play a vital role in enabling these eight businesses – and others like them in future rounds of funding – to take the next important steps toward commercialization for their innovations,” said Aaron Hagar, WEDC Vice President of Entrepreneurship and Innovation. “This program serves to bridge that gap between laboratory research and a market-ready product, which is crucial to creating an environment that welcomes new business development and attracts global investors to our state.”

The U.S. government created SBIR/STTR programs to stimulate domestic high-tech innovation, providing $2.5 billion in federal research funding each year. Because those funds cannot be used for commercialization activities, the SBIR Advance program fills the gap. Funds can be used to pursue market research, customer validation, intellectual property work or other areas that speed commercialization.

SBIR Advance grant recipients receive CTC staff support available throughout the commercialization process, including Lean Startup training, business plan review and other consulting.

“SBIR Advance has allowed companies to validate their business hypothesis that can lead to their ultimate success. As one of the few states that provide this assistance, we have garnered interest not only from other states but also from outside companies who are interested in moving to Wisconsin because of this program,” stated Dr. Todd Strother, Program Manager.

For more details on the SBIR Advance program, visit or e-mail . The next solicitation opens in January.

SBIR Advance is part of a Start-Seed-Scale (S3) initiative WEDC is pursuing with the help of the UW System and other business leaders throughout the state to remove barriers to high-tech commercialization. Under the S3 umbrella, WEDC and its economic development partners are implementing financial and operational assistance programs designed specifically to address Wisconsin’s business startup and seed-funding challenges. Another S3 collaborative effort between WEDC and the UW System is the Ideadvance Seed Fund, also managed by UW System Administration’s CTC. Selected SBIR Advance participants undergo Ideadvance Lean Startup training that is modified to assist with their SBIR Phase II applications.

About The Center for Technology Commercialization

The Center for Technology Commercialization is a unit in the University of Wisconsin System Administration’s Institute for Business & Entrepreneurship. CTC provides one-on-one expert consulting to early-stage emerging technology businesses throughout Wisconsin. CTC has collaborated in acquiring more than $100 million in federal and other funding for clients. Learn more at ; follow on Twitter.

About The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation

The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) leads economic development efforts for the state by advancing and maximizing opportunities in Wisconsin for businesses, communities and people to thrive in a globally competitive environment. Working with more than 600 regional and local partners, WEDC develops and delivers solutions representative of a highly responsive and coordinated economic development network. Learn more at ; follow on Twitter.

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Wastewater innovation reduces negative public health impact

        

While pursuing her engineering studies, Paige Peters creates a business that treats wastewater 16x faster

 

For Paige Peters, studying environmental engineering was always part of the plan. Starting her own business was not.

In addition to being the founder and CEO of Milwaukee-based firm Rapid Radicals Technology, Peters, 30, is currently pursuing a PhD from Marquette University in civil engineering with an emphasis on water and wastewater treatment. Her lifelong passion for water, when combined with the “engineering mind” she displayed even as a child, meant environmental engineering was a perfect fit.

“For me, what I love about water is that it affects everybody,” Peters said, “so for someone who loves people so much and loves making those relationships and building those connections, it made the most sense to do water: It affects everybody’s life every single day.”

After graduating with a bachelor of science degree from Marquette in civil engineering, Peters returned in 2015 to get her master’s under Dr. Dan Zitomer, focusing on combined sewer overflows and wastewater treatment. At that time, she realized she and Dr. Zitomer had found a potential solution to a problem that plagued not just Milwaukee but cities across the country.

Combined sewer systems, a model commonly used in the Great Lakes region, carry sanitary water and storm water in the same pipe, which means the water must get treated before being discharged. However, treatment centers can only handle so much water, so in the event of heavy rainfall, combined sewers may overflow -- discharging waste into lakes and rivers or even into people’s basements.

“You trust [the system] is going to lead that waste away from you.” Peters said. “It’s a public health and environmental health issue.”

Peters aimed to solve the problem by shortening wastewater treatment time for combined sewers from eight hours to under 30 minutes – 16 times faster. This technology became the foundation for Rapid Radicals Technology, which Peters founded halfway through the second year of her master’s. If she successfully commercializes, Peters’ system would be the first of its kind in Milwaukee. Peters is currently working on building the first pilot.

“I was willing to take it on, because it sounded like a really fun adventure. I think this has been the best way to go about it,” Peters said.

Much of what motivated Peters to dive into entrepreneurship was the variety of resources available to those looking to start a business in Wisconsin – including young PhD students with no experience in business.

One of those resources was the SBIR Ready program, which Peters discovered through her participation in and her relationship with Marquette University. The provided Peters with the essential education and tools to help her apply for and win federal Small Business Innovation Research funding for her technology to advance her company.

to tap into assistance programs and to build relationships with people who can advocate for them.

 “When it came to starting a company, I didn’t know anything. My initial approach was to reach out to everybody with anything that I knew existed in terms of resources,” Peters said. “What I found in return was that there are so many resources available to you, and that everybody wants to help.”

“At the end of the day, it’s on you to move things forward. But you’re doing it wrong if you feel like you’re alone the whole time,” Peters said.

Balancing her PhD work and her business would seem like two hefty and competing challenges. Peters sees it as her motivation instead.

“The problem my work is seeking to solve needs a solution faster than if the academic and entrepreneurial worlds continue operating independent of one other,” she said. “I see the inherent value of them working together for more effective and efficient tech transfer. They operate under different priorities and different timelines, but they do truly complement each other. Every time we do something new or innovative, we make it easier for the next person to go down a similar path.”

 

Wastewater innovation reduces negative public health impact

        

While pursuing her engineering studies, Paige Peters creates a business that treats wastewater 16x faster

 

For Paige Peters, studying environmental engineering was always part of the plan. Starting her own business was not.

In addition to being the founder and CEO of Milwaukee-based firm Rapid Radicals Technology, Peters, 30, is currently pursuing a PhD from Marquette University in civil engineering with an emphasis on water and wastewater treatment. Her lifelong passion for water, when combined with the “engineering mind” she displayed even as a child, meant environmental engineering was a perfect fit.

“For me, what I love about water is that it affects everybody,” Peters said, “so for someone who loves people so much and loves making those relationships and building those connections, it made the most sense to do water: It affects everybody’s life every single day.”

After graduating with a bachelor of science degree from Marquette in civil engineering, Peters returned in 2015 to get her master’s under Dr. Dan Zitomer, focusing on combined sewer overflows and wastewater treatment. At that time, she realized she and Dr. Zitomer had found a potential solution to a problem that plagued not just Milwaukee but cities across the country.

Combined sewer systems, a model commonly used in the Great Lakes region, carry sanitary water and storm water in the same pipe, which means the water must get treated before being discharged. However, treatment centers can only handle so much water, so in the event of heavy rainfall, combined sewers may overflow -- discharging waste into lakes and rivers or even into people’s basements.

“You trust [the system] is going to lead that waste away from you.” Peters said. “It’s a public health and environmental health issue.”

Peters aimed to solve the problem by shortening wastewater treatment time for combined sewers from eight hours to under 30 minutes – 16 times faster. This technology became the foundation for Rapid Radicals Technology, which Peters founded halfway through the second year of her master’s. If she successfully commercializes, Peters’ system would be the first of its kind in Milwaukee. Peters is currently working on building the first pilot.

“I was willing to take it on, because it sounded like a really fun adventure. I think this has been the best way to go about it,” Peters said.

Much of what motivated Peters to dive into entrepreneurship was the variety of resources available to those looking to start a business in Wisconsin – including young PhD students with no experience in business.

One of those resources was the SBIR Ready program, which Peters discovered through her participation in and her relationship with Marquette University. The provided Peters with the essential education and tools to help her apply for and win federal Small Business Innovation Research funding for her technology to advance her company.

to tap into assistance programs and to build relationships with people who can advocate for them.

 “When it came to starting a company, I didn’t know anything. My initial approach was to reach out to everybody with anything that I knew existed in terms of resources,” Peters said. “What I found in return was that there are so many resources available to you, and that everybody wants to help.”

“At the end of the day, it’s on you to move things forward. But you’re doing it wrong if you feel like you’re alone the whole time,” Peters said.

Balancing her PhD work and her business would seem like two hefty and competing challenges. Peters sees it as her motivation instead.

“The problem my work is seeking to solve needs a solution faster than if the academic and entrepreneurial worlds continue operating independent of one other,” she said. “I see the inherent value of them working together for more effective and efficient tech transfer. They operate under different priorities and different timelines, but they do truly complement each other. Every time we do something new or innovative, we make it easier for the next person to go down a similar path.”

 

Wastewater innovation reduces negative public health impact

        

While pursuing her engineering studies, Paige Peters creates a business that treats wastewater 16x faster

 

For Paige Peters, studying environmental engineering was always part of the plan. Starting her own business was not.

In addition to being the founder and CEO of Milwaukee-based firm Rapid Radicals Technology, Peters, 30, is currently pursuing a PhD from Marquette University in civil engineering with an emphasis on water and wastewater treatment. Her lifelong passion for water, when combined with the “engineering mind” she displayed even as a child, meant environmental engineering was a perfect fit.

“For me, what I love about water is that it affects everybody,” Peters said, “so for someone who loves people so much and loves making those relationships and building those connections, it made the most sense to do water: It affects everybody’s life every single day.”

After graduating with a bachelor of science degree from Marquette in civil engineering, Peters returned in 2015 to get her master’s under Dr. Dan Zitomer, focusing on combined sewer overflows and wastewater treatment. At that time, she realized she and Dr. Zitomer had found a potential solution to a problem that plagued not just Milwaukee but cities across the country.

Combined sewer systems, a model commonly used in the Great Lakes region, carry sanitary water and storm water in the same pipe, which means the water must get treated before being discharged. However, treatment centers can only handle so much water, so in the event of heavy rainfall, combined sewers may overflow -- discharging waste into lakes and rivers or even into people’s basements.

“You trust [the system] is going to lead that waste away from you.” Peters said. “It’s a public health and environmental health issue.”

Peters aimed to solve the problem by shortening wastewater treatment time for combined sewers from eight hours to under 30 minutes – 16 times faster. This technology became the foundation for Rapid Radicals Technology, which Peters founded halfway through the second year of her master’s. If she successfully commercializes, Peters’ system would be the first of its kind in Milwaukee. Peters is currently working on building the first pilot.

“I was willing to take it on, because it sounded like a really fun adventure. I think this has been the best way to go about it,” Peters said.

Much of what motivated Peters to dive into entrepreneurship was the variety of resources available to those looking to start a business in Wisconsin – including young PhD students with no experience in business.

One of those resources was the SBIR Ready program, which Peters discovered through her participation in and her relationship with Marquette University. The provided Peters with the essential education and tools to help her apply for and win federal Small Business Innovation Research funding for her technology to advance her company.

to tap into assistance programs and to build relationships with people who can advocate for them.

 “When it came to starting a company, I didn’t know anything. My initial approach was to reach out to everybody with anything that I knew existed in terms of resources,” Peters said. “What I found in return was that there are so many resources available to you, and that everybody wants to help.”

“At the end of the day, it’s on you to move things forward. But you’re doing it wrong if you feel like you’re alone the whole time,” Peters said.

Balancing her PhD work and her business would seem like two hefty and competing challenges. Peters sees it as her motivation instead.

“The problem my work is seeking to solve needs a solution faster than if the academic and entrepreneurial worlds continue operating independent of one other,” she said. “I see the inherent value of them working together for more effective and efficient tech transfer. They operate under different priorities and different timelines, but they do truly complement each other. Every time we do something new or innovative, we make it easier for the next person to go down a similar path.”

 

Wastewater innovation reduces negative public health impact

        

While pursuing her engineering studies, Paige Peters creates a business that treats wastewater 16x faster

 

For Paige Peters, studying environmental engineering was always part of the plan. Starting her own business was not.

In addition to being the founder and CEO of Milwaukee-based firm Rapid Radicals Technology, Peters, 30, is currently pursuing a PhD from Marquette University in civil engineering with an emphasis on water and wastewater treatment. Her lifelong passion for water, when combined with the “engineering mind” she displayed even as a child, meant environmental engineering was a perfect fit.

“For me, what I love about water is that it affects everybody,” Peters said, “so for someone who loves people so much and loves making those relationships and building those connections, it made the most sense to do water: It affects everybody’s life every single day.”

After graduating with a bachelor of science degree from Marquette in civil engineering, Peters returned in 2015 to get her master’s under Dr. Dan Zitomer, focusing on combined sewer overflows and wastewater treatment. At that time, she realized she and Dr. Zitomer had found a potential solution to a problem that plagued not just Milwaukee but cities across the country.

Combined sewer systems, a model commonly used in the Great Lakes region, carry sanitary water and storm water in the same pipe, which means the water must get treated before being discharged. However, treatment centers can only handle so much water, so in the event of heavy rainfall, combined sewers may overflow -- discharging waste into lakes and rivers or even into people’s basements.

“You trust [the system] is going to lead that waste away from you.” Peters said. “It’s a public health and environmental health issue.”

Peters aimed to solve the problem by shortening wastewater treatment time for combined sewers from eight hours to under 30 minutes – 16 times faster. This technology became the foundation for Rapid Radicals Technology, which Peters founded halfway through the second year of her master’s. If she successfully commercializes, Peters’ system would be the first of its kind in Milwaukee. Peters is currently working on building the first pilot.

“I was willing to take it on, because it sounded like a really fun adventure. I think this has been the best way to go about it,” Peters said.

Much of what motivated Peters to dive into entrepreneurship was the variety of resources available to those looking to start a business in Wisconsin – including young PhD students with no experience in business.

One of those resources was the SBIR Ready program, which Peters discovered through her participation in and her relationship with Marquette University. The provided Peters with the essential education and tools to help her apply for and win federal Small Business Innovation Research funding for her technology to advance her company.

to tap into assistance programs and to build relationships with people who can advocate for them.

 “When it came to starting a company, I didn’t know anything. My initial approach was to reach out to everybody with anything that I knew existed in terms of resources,” Peters said. “What I found in return was that there are so many resources available to you, and that everybody wants to help.”

“At the end of the day, it’s on you to move things forward. But you’re doing it wrong if you feel like you’re alone the whole time,” Peters said.

Balancing her PhD work and her business would seem like two hefty and competing challenges. Peters sees it as her motivation instead.

“The problem my work is seeking to solve needs a solution faster than if the academic and entrepreneurial worlds continue operating independent of one other,” she said. “I see the inherent value of them working together for more effective and efficient tech transfer. They operate under different priorities and different timelines, but they do truly complement each other. Every time we do something new or innovative, we make it easier for the next person to go down a similar path.”

 

Wastewater innovation reduces negative public health impact

        

While pursuing her engineering studies, Paige Peters creates a business that treats wastewater 16x faster

 

For Paige Peters, studying environmental engineering was always part of the plan. Starting her own business was not.

In addition to being the founder and CEO of Milwaukee-based firm Rapid Radicals Technology, Peters, 30, is currently pursuing a PhD from Marquette University in civil engineering with an emphasis on water and wastewater treatment. Her lifelong passion for water, when combined with the “engineering mind” she displayed even as a child, meant environmental engineering was a perfect fit.

“For me, what I love about water is that it affects everybody,” Peters said, “so for someone who loves people so much and loves making those relationships and building those connections, it made the most sense to do water: It affects everybody’s life every single day.”

After graduating with a bachelor of science degree from Marquette in civil engineering, Peters returned in 2015 to get her master’s under Dr. Dan Zitomer, focusing on combined sewer overflows and wastewater treatment. At that time, she realized she and Dr. Zitomer had found a potential solution to a problem that plagued not just Milwaukee but cities across the country.

Combined sewer systems, a model commonly used in the Great Lakes region, carry sanitary water and storm water in the same pipe, which means the water must get treated before being discharged. However, treatment centers can only handle so much water, so in the event of heavy rainfall, combined sewers may overflow -- discharging waste into lakes and rivers or even into people’s basements.

“You trust [the system] is going to lead that waste away from you.” Peters said. “It’s a public health and environmental health issue.”

Peters aimed to solve the problem by shortening wastewater treatment time for combined sewers from eight hours to under 30 minutes – 16 times faster. This technology became the foundation for Rapid Radicals Technology, which Peters founded halfway through the second year of her master’s. If she successfully commercializes, Peters’ system would be the first of its kind in Milwaukee. Peters is currently working on building the first pilot.

“I was willing to take it on, because it sounded like a really fun adventure. I think this has been the best way to go about it,” Peters said.

Much of what motivated Peters to dive into entrepreneurship was the variety of resources available to those looking to start a business in Wisconsin – including young PhD students with no experience in business.

One of those resources was the SBIR Ready program, which Peters discovered through her participation in and her relationship with Marquette University. The provided Peters with the essential education and tools to help her apply for and win federal Small Business Innovation Research funding for her technology to advance her company.

to tap into assistance programs and to build relationships with people who can advocate for them.

 “When it came to starting a company, I didn’t know anything. My initial approach was to reach out to everybody with anything that I knew existed in terms of resources,” Peters said. “What I found in return was that there are so many resources available to you, and that everybody wants to help.”

“At the end of the day, it’s on you to move things forward. But you’re doing it wrong if you feel like you’re alone the whole time,” Peters said.

Balancing her PhD work and her business would seem like two hefty and competing challenges. Peters sees it as her motivation instead.

“The problem my work is seeking to solve needs a solution faster than if the academic and entrepreneurial worlds continue operating independent of one other,” she said. “I see the inherent value of them working together for more effective and efficient tech transfer. They operate under different priorities and different timelines, but they do truly complement each other. Every time we do something new or innovative, we make it easier for the next person to go down a similar path.”

 

Wastewater innovation reduces negative public health impact

        

While pursuing her engineering studies, Paige Peters creates a business that treats wastewater 16x faster

 

For Paige Peters, studying environmental engineering was always part of the plan. Starting her own business was not.

In addition to being the founder and CEO of Milwaukee-based firm Rapid Radicals Technology, Peters, 30, is currently pursuing a PhD from Marquette University in civil engineering with an emphasis on water and wastewater treatment. Her lifelong passion for water, when combined with the “engineering mind” she displayed even as a child, meant environmental engineering was a perfect fit.

“For me, what I love about water is that it affects everybody,” Peters said, “so for someone who loves people so much and loves making those relationships and building those connections, it made the most sense to do water: It affects everybody’s life every single day.”

After graduating with a bachelor of science degree from Marquette in civil engineering, Peters returned in 2015 to get her master’s under Dr. Dan Zitomer, focusing on combined sewer overflows and wastewater treatment. At that time, she realized she and Dr. Zitomer had found a potential solution to a problem that plagued not just Milwaukee but cities across the country.

Combined sewer systems, a model commonly used in the Great Lakes region, carry sanitary water and storm water in the same pipe, which means the water must get treated before being discharged. However, treatment centers can only handle so much water, so in the event of heavy rainfall, combined sewers may overflow -- discharging waste into lakes and rivers or even into people’s basements.

“You trust [the system] is going to lead that waste away from you.” Peters said. “It’s a public health and environmental health issue.”

Peters aimed to solve the problem by shortening wastewater treatment time for combined sewers from eight hours to under 30 minutes – 16 times faster. This technology became the foundation for Rapid Radicals Technology, which Peters founded halfway through the second year of her master’s. If she successfully commercializes, Peters’ system would be the first of its kind in Milwaukee. Peters is currently working on building the first pilot.

“I was willing to take it on, because it sounded like a really fun adventure. I think this has been the best way to go about it,” Peters said.

Much of what motivated Peters to dive into entrepreneurship was the variety of resources available to those looking to start a business in Wisconsin – including young PhD students with no experience in business.

One of those resources was the SBIR Ready program, which Peters discovered through her participation in and her relationship with Marquette University. The provided Peters with the essential education and tools to help her apply for and win federal Small Business Innovation Research funding for her technology to advance her company.

to tap into assistance programs and to build relationships with people who can advocate for them.

 “When it came to starting a company, I didn’t know anything. My initial approach was to reach out to everybody with anything that I knew existed in terms of resources,” Peters said. “What I found in return was that there are so many resources available to you, and that everybody wants to help.”

“At the end of the day, it’s on you to move things forward. But you’re doing it wrong if you feel like you’re alone the whole time,” Peters said.

Balancing her PhD work and her business would seem like two hefty and competing challenges. Peters sees it as her motivation instead.

“The problem my work is seeking to solve needs a solution faster than if the academic and entrepreneurial worlds continue operating independent of one other,” she said. “I see the inherent value of them working together for more effective and efficient tech transfer. They operate under different priorities and different timelines, but they do truly complement each other. Every time we do something new or innovative, we make it easier for the next person to go down a similar path.”

 

Addressing reviewer comments in resubmissions

So you have submitted your SBIR proposal some months ago and are nervously waiting for word on what the reviewers thought of it.   Eventually, you receive notice that, like so many others, your proposal will not be funded this round.  However, the reviewers have kindly given their comments for you to consider should you wish to resubmit.  How then, is the best way to address the reviewer comments for your resubmission?

Most SBIR funding agencies have some resubmission guidelines for dealing with reviewer comments, but they are often general and may not be overly helpful.  You may be at a bit of a loss on how to effectively respond to the reviews.  The best way to address these comments is to realize they are valuable insights and will provide excellent help on improving your subsequent success.  Often the agency requires that you address the reviewer comments on one page at the front of your resubmission.  This limited space means you need to be succinct and short in your replies.  Always start the page with a statement of appreciation for the efforts of the reviewers in providing this valuable insight; resist the urge to be resentful of the negative feedback and don’t take it personally.  Thank them for their time and efforts. Enumerate the salient points brought up by the reviewers and address them individually.  A list of comments with your responses will make it much easier for subsequent reviewers to track how well you have addressed the deficiencies.   

Generally, specific reviewer comments have good scientific basis and when properly addressed will make for a stronger proposal.  In your reply, summarize briefly how you have incorporated the reviewer suggestion and indicate where in the text the substantial changes can be found.  Appropriately mark the areas in the text related to these changes (use “*”, italics, double underline, etc.) to make them more easily found.  If the reviewer comment is incorrect or reveals confusion on their part, respectfully explain why you disagree with them and are not making material changes to the proposal; or make clarification changes in the text to sharpen your point; again indicate where you have made those changes.  Finally, check your final work, make sure there are no conflicting sections that you have neglected to change or fix.  Making your resubmission easy to understand and follow will go a long way towards having it successfully scored.

- Todd Strother, 2018

Perfecting Your Pitch to Program Managers

One of the most common themes we try to impress on our clients is for them to reach out to the various program managers well before they submit a proposal.  The program managers are often your best resource in getting answers to your questions whether they are general, or specific for your specific topic or proposal.  We always insist that you try to cultivate a healthy relationship with an appropriate program manager not only because they are a wealth of information, but also because in many cases they are very much like potential investors in your company.  Different agencies have their program managers perform different roles; some are more involved in the review process than other, but they all ultimately have considerable influence in whether or not your project gets funded.  There have been cases where proposals have been “on the bubble” or scored worse than others, that the program manager was a champion for and managed to get funded.

We recommend initial contact with a program manager three months or more before your project is due.  Often the best way is to simply send an introductory email.  You may wish to include a short exectutive summary of your project along with your email and request their advice and thoughts.  If you are lucky, you might be able to organize a phone call with them to discuss your questions and their thoughts.  Note that some agencies are more conducive to program manager contact time than others.  NSF, for example has recently changed their methodology where they limit initial program manager contact and won’t respond to a direct email.  They now allow you to submit an ‘optional’ Pre-Submission form for feedback directly on their website, and contact you on their own initiative after that. Other agencies require their program managers not have any contact with potential proposers after certain dates.  These mandated ‘black-out’ periods reduce the appearance of favoritism to particular companies.  Be mindful and respectful of these times. Initiating contact three months before the deadline will generally be early enough to avoid these issues.

While you are preparing you documents for submission and if the program manager is available, you can consider them a resource to provide information about topic fit, collaborators, budget limitations, and scope of work.  Often they can provide or suggest other funding opportunities that might relevant that you may not be aware of.  During your interactions, you might want to guage their interest in your proposal as well.  This can be a subtle way for you to determine if it is really worth your time and effort to submit a proposal that really doesn’t fit the topic or interest the program manager.  While they will likely never tell you to not submit a proposal, if they tell you the idea is a ‘better fit for another agency’, you should consider that a strong indication that your project will not be successful, and should seek funding elsewhere.  While we do recommend healthy discourse with program managers, recognize that they are quite busy and will not appreciate being contacted often or for minor details during this period.

After your submission the proposal will wind its way through the review process and can usually be tracked for progress.  There is generally not much needed to be done with the program manager at this time. The most common concern our clients have is “When will I find out the results?”  Unfortunately, there is not a lot of specific assistance the program manager can provide, but sometimes they can give you general thoughts on timelines for review and decision making.

Finally, if you are at the point where a funding decision has been made, you can work with the program manager for next steps.  If you are fortunate and funding is forthcoming, you will continue to cultivate the relationship and work with them more closely as your project proceeds.  If you are amongst those who are not funded in this round, you can often request and get an opportunity to talk about the results and what your options are for future funding, either through a resubmission or for a different topic. Note that the program manager cannot provide details of who the reviewers were, nor can they ‘go back’ and reconsider your proposal based on your arguments or rebuttals.  It is imperative that you are respectful and non-confrontational with the disappointing results. 

 

Why consider USDA in your SBIR pursuits?

Often our clients think primarily about NSF or NIH as a source for SBIR funding.  This neglects some of the other agencies like , which can be a good fit for appropriate projects. While, most certainly, ‘typical’ farm related topics that affect plant and animal production and protection are excellent fits for an SBIR project, the USDA has several other categories of interest that are fundable.  Novel engineering methods for utilizing natural products have been funded as have methods for removing phosphates from waste water.  Serious biotech and start-up pharmaceutical companies often find that USDA grants are a good resource, where they find their technologies can be used more rapidly and easily in veterinary applications rather than initially in human applications.  USDA is also unique in that they have an interest in areas of focus that are less typical ‘innovative research’.  Notably, USDA has topics specifically for rural development as well as promotion of small and midsized farms. These are projects that may commercialize new or even existing technologies that improves the economic vitality of rural communities; or increases profitability of small farms in any number of ways.  With this in mind, we are actively seeking out teams who may fit the USDA program, and have not previously considered it.

Contact your CTC Consultant or to speak more about the upcoming October USDA SBIR deadline and how your project may be a fit for the program.

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