SBIR Proposal Writing Basics: Advice for SBIR/STTR Proposers to Dept. of Energy (DoE)

Gail & Jim Greenwood, Greenwood Consulting Group, Inc.
Copyright © 2017 by Greenwood Consulting Group, Inc.

The Dept. of Energy (DOE) has initiated its first request for SBIR/STTR Phase I proposals for Federal Fiscal Year 2018. DOE has some interesting and unique requirements, so we wanted to highlight some of them to help potential applicants.

If You Don’t Fit the Topic, Don’t Submit. DOE is unique as a granting agency in that it has relatively specific topics in its SBIR/STTR program. If your project doesn’t fit one of those topics, then you should not submit a proposal. By the way, DOE releases two Funding Opportunity Announcements per year, so if your idea doesn’t fit any topics in the current, FY18.1 release, then it may be more appropriate for the FY18.2 FOA that will come out on October 30, 2017.

Letter of Intent. DOE is the only SBIR/STTR agency that requires an applicant to first submit a Letter of Intent (LOI), or DOE will not accept their subsequent full proposal. The LOI has a particular format, and must be submitted via a process called PAMS (see below), so it is not as simple as just saying you plan to submit. The LOI must be submitted by a given deadline; as discussed below, the FY18.1 LOI deadline has been delayed beyond its original scheduled date of September 5, 2017.

Registration, registrations, and more registrations. As indicated above, the LOI must be submitted via a DOE system called PAMS; before you can use PAMS, your principal investigator and business official must register your business on the system. Then separate registrations will be required so that you can submit your Phase I proposal via grants.gov—it requires a DUNS number and SAM registration. All of this is very doable, but it takes time so be sure to get started early (yesterday) on all the registrations so they don’t become a hindrance to getting your LOI and full Phase I proposal submitted.

Talk to Topic Manager If You Can. DOE has managers for each topic and subtopic in their Phase I SBIR/STTR program. They likely have useful and important information for applicants. Unfortunately, not all of these managers believe they should or need to talk with applicants. Therefore, if you decide to try to contact them, which we strongly recommend that you do, don’t be surprised if you don’t get a response.

Be Prepared For Delays. Former presidential candidate Rick Perry vowed to eliminate DOE if he were elected. He was not elected, but he was appointed as the Secretary of Energy over DOE. Perhaps a coincidence, but since Perry took the reins at DOE, its SBIR/STTR program has been glacially slow. This has most recently manifested itself by delays in releasing the FY18.1 FOA/solicitation. It was due to be released on August 14, 2017—now, more than 2 weeks later, it has not been released. Because the FOA (which has instructions for the LOI) hasn’t been released, DOE has now postponed its LOI due date indefinitely. Therefore, if you are going to participate in the DOE SBIR/STTR program, you need to be prepared for such delays, not only on the release of FOAs and LOI deadlines, but also in announcing winners and initiating grants.

Take Advantage of DOE’s Phase 0 Program. If you are interested in submitting a Phase I SBIR or STTR proposal to DOE, then you may want to take advantage of the agency’s Phase 0 program. This initiative makes proposal assistance and resources available to applicants to make their Phase I DOE proposals more competitive. The Phase 0 program is available to any woman- or minority-owned business (WOB or MOB) applying for FY18.1 Phase I SBIR/STTR funding. It also is available to any business in a state where DOE hasn’t seen as much SBIR/STTR activity as they’d like; that extensive list includes the states of AK, DC, GA, HI, IA, ID, IN, KS, LA, ME, MN, MS, MT, NC, ND, NE, NY, OK, PA, PR, RI, SC, SD, WA, and WI. You also can qualify for Phase 0 if you are teaming with a DOE Federal Lab in one of the underrepresented states: Ames Laboratory (IA), Idaho National Laboratory (ID), Brookhaven National Laboratory (NY), Savannah River National Laboratory (SC) or Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (WA). For more information or to apply for Phase 0, visit at http://www.dawnbreaker.com/doephase0/.

DOE’ s SBIR/STTR programs can be excellent sources of funding for your innovation. Like all agencies, DOE has its share of unique features and requirements with which you must comply or your application will not be competitive. As we all wait for release of the FY18.1 FOA, you may want to review the FY17.1 and FY17.2 FOAs (available at https://science.energy.gov/sbir/funding-opportunities/fy-2017/), register for PAMS and grants.gov, and try to initiate a dialog with a relevant topic manager.

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