Boosting Small Businesses: Key Insights on Securing SBIR/STTR Grants from Expert Richard Giersch


Key Takeaways:

– Former biotech executive Richard Giersch provides a detailed guide on securing SBIR/STTR grants for startups.
– Ensuring commercial potential, a robust budget justification, and a precise understanding of the agency’s criteria are key to a successful grant application.
– The U.S. National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health are the top providers of SBIR/STTR grant funding in Washington state.

With a wealth of experience and over $25 million in successful SBIR/STTR grants under his belt, Richard Giersch, the executive director of Life Science Washington Institute, recently offered invaluable advice on securing these grants at the University of Washington.

Understanding SBIR/STTR Grants

Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) awards make up the majority of U.S. government grants designed to support small businesses, according to Giersch. Over time, these grants have contributed more than $1.6 billion to 4,577 companies in Washington state. Companies such as Histone Therapeutics, Phase Genomics, Seagen and Talus Biosciences, have previously benefited from these grants.

The Role of Federal Agencies

Main providers of SBIR/STTR grants in Washington are the U.S. National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health, closely followed by the U.S. Department of Energy. Other federal agencies, including the Department of Defense, also partake in funding these grants.

Insights on SBIR/STTR Grants Applications

Giersch advises potential candidates of Phase I grants to prepare at least 10 weeks before the deadline, making time to identify external reviewers and meet with the program officer.

Before beginning to write, applicants should also fulfill small business registration requirements online. Assistance in this process can be sought from Accelerating Research and Commercialization – Washington (ARC WA), a program launched in 2022.

Making a Robust Budget Justification

Throughout the application process, Giersch stressed the importance of robust budget justifications. “Always err on the side of giving too much information,” he stated. Attention to detail in budgeting is imperative as program officers are specific and literal in their evaluation.

Paying Attention to Agency’s Criteria

Just as critical in the application process is understanding and addressing the agency’s criteria. Giersch emphasizes that simplifying the reviewer’s task greatly increases the chances of success and recommends using direct language to highlight how a project meets the funding criteria.

Conducting a Thorough Literature Review

Citing all relevant research papers is crucial in the literature review phase of the application. It is important to include one’s research, but publications are not a compulsory prerequisite. Emphasis should be placed on the preliminary data.

Owning the Technical Writing

Lastly, while consultants can be resourceful in the writing process, Giersch suggests applicants should take the lead in writing the technical section, as they are the technical experts. “Doing it yourself is almost always more convincing to the readers,” he underscored.

SBIR and STTR grants carry a transformative potential for businesses, offering them the opportunity to prove their innovative technology and set the stage for potential investor funding. Preparing a comprehensive and meticulous application, as advised by Giersch, could, therefore, be a game-changer for small businesses and startups.

Jonathan Browne
Jonathan Browne
Jonathan Browne is the CEO and Founder of Livy.AI

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