Techniques in Writing IV


One of the key factors in getting your proposal funded is selling your idea to the reviewers. So, how do you sell your idea? There are many techniques for doing this.

Sometimes, often in fact, there will be weaknesses in the position behind your proposal. This is a risk factor that is supposed to be there. It is one of the reasons for the SBIR program: to support early risky projects that would not be able to attract venture/angel funding due to the high risk.

NSF encourages this type of proposal and the reviewers at NSF approach risk in this spirit as well.

The NIH is different. The NIH is risk averse. Most reviewers are so used to the no risk RO1 review style that it is difficult for them to adjust to the spirit of the SBIR review criteria.

There are several ways to write your application so that the reviewers will be more likely to accept the risk. Aside from providing preliminary data, which reduces the risk, you can address the risk explicitly in terms of a business venture. First show the reviewer that the reward is high. Next, show the reviewer that the most efficient way to test feasibility is to do the high risk experiments first. That is, if one were to first carry out the preliminary studies to reduce the risk, their cost would not justify the savings of avoiding the high risk experiments in the proposal. Be sure to put this aspect of the proposal in terms of a business venture and not a scientific venture.

This technique gives you the highest probability that the reviewer will walk away with the right idea of the reason for carrying out the risky set of experiments with the high gain.

Finally, for high risk ventures, keep the budget as low as possible. The budget is only discussed after the review is complete, but it still enters into the score whether it is supposed to or not. I have seen this happen many times. Therefore when risky experiments are proposed, keep the budget as low as possible.

For more specific and additional information on this topic, click on this link: High Level SBIR/STTR Grant Writing Techniques.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me or go to

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