Letters of Support 
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LETTERS OF SUPPORT

Letters of support are very important to include in your application. These letters fall into several different categories. These categories include: significance, investigators, and environment.

Letters of support for Significance are important because they are actions of Significance and thus carry more weight than the words in the Significance section of the application. They are not as strong as actually purchasing a product or actually giving money to support development of the project, but if you can shown commitment of matching funds or previous funding from Angel or Venture groups, that is very strong support.

Like most people, reviewers like to come to their own conclusion about Significance. However, a small percent of reviewers actually have the world view and technical knowledge to make the appropriate assessment. This weakess (such a small percentage of people who have what it takes to recognize Significance) is generally recognized by the NIH itself. Steps are being taken to try and rectify this situation. It is not an easy situation to rectify, however. Nonetheless, you can help yourself by defining Significance for the reviewers by providers the appropriate letters from outside experts and companies. The reviewers will not always listen, but it is the best you can do at the moment.

Letters of Significance fall into two categories: desire to purchase the product and desire to financially (or in kind) support development of the product.

The first type of letter is from end users. The second type of letter is from a co-developer, marketer, or purchaser of the technology.

Letters from end users should be from key opinion leaders (KOLs) who will actually use the product. A KOL are the people who write the most review articles in a given area. The qualify as a KOL, every established person in a field must recognize this person’s name.

It is important to provide a letter of support from one to three KOLs. The letter should start with the title of the application and the submission date. Next, the KOL should give their relevant background information, as a way of establishing their credentials. Next, the KOL should state something to the effect that “This is a valuable and innovative product……say why it is valuable and innovative….” If as all possible, it is good to have a statement of willingness to try out the product during the product development and provide feedback. Finally, the letter should conclude with a strong statement of desire to use or purchase such a product once it is available.

It is important to remember that this is not a letter of commitment to buy a product, as no product has yet been developed, therefore its final specifications are not yet known.

As an alternative to a KOL, a large end user is equally valuable, as long as the end user is a recognized entity. For example, several letters from the heads of high throughput screening departments at recognized drug companies would be persuasive of the Significance of a product to be developed.

Next week, I will address more aspects of these important letters of support.

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 SBIR-STTRgrantshelp.com.




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Start Early 
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PREPARE EARLY

It is important to start to prepare your application early. Start as early as possible, but be sure to start at least 30 days before submission. It is best to start at least 2 or 3 months before submission.

Time flies incredibly fast when the submission deadline approaches, so it is important to start early. It is almost impossible to put together a winning proposal in only two weeks. This can be done, but it is not a good bet.

Write your Abstract (Project Description) first. This is your outline. It should contain all key points of the proposal in order: Specific Aim, Significance/Background, Preliminary data, Research steps, and feasibility criteria. This will allow the reviewer to get the big picture before reading the proposal. This gives the reviewer a conceptual framework in which to put later information.

Next write the Specific Aims, Background and Significance, Preliminary Studies/Phase I report, and then the Research and design section. Writing in this order keeps the application organized and gives it the appropriate logical flow. If you write the application out of order, it will likely appear unfocused and lacking in continuity.

Have this first draft written at least 30 days before the submission deadline. Then pass the application to the appropriate people. The application should be finalized at least 5 days before submission. This will avoid needless mistakes that can be costly.

In parallel to writing me sure to have the budget and other administrative sections completed at least one day before the submission deadline as well. If you are a first time applicant, have both sections completed at least a full week before submission. Then submit. It is likely that there will be an error somewhere. This will give you plenty of time to fix the error.

By having a solid application, you will increase your chances of obtaining funding.

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 SBIR-STTRgrantshelp.com.



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Keep the Writing Simple 
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WRITE IN A SIMPLE MANNER

It is very important to write in a simple manner. Keep the writing level at an advanced high school level. This will help strained reviewers to stay focused on your application.

I have seen many applications of high significance fall short on scoring because they were written in a very complex manner. This complex manner of writing demands serious concentration from a tired reviewer. As much as the reviewer might want to do their best, the energy just is no longer there after already reading 7 other applications in a short time span.

The reviewers want to do a good job, but time is short and there are many demands upon them. Help your self and the reviewer by writing in an easy to read style.

We already know that everyone involved in the granting process is intelligent. There is no need to demonstrate it by writing in a complex manner. Keeping the writing simple will not reflect badly. The reviewer will be relieved that at last an applicant understands the situation.

The reviewer is looking for reasons to fund your application. If you make those reasons easily accessible, then you stand a higher chance of obtaining funding.

Try to keep in mind that people who understand a subject are usually the best at explaining the subject in simple to understand terms. You can get more complex in the methods section, but keep the Abstract, Specific Aims, Significance and Background, and Preliminary Studies sections as simple as possible.

By helping the reviewer understand your application, you will increase your chances of obtaining funding.

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 SBIR-STTRgrantshelp.com.



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Respond Well to Reviewers 
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RESPOND WELL TO REVIEWERS

When resubmitting, it is of paramount importance to respond completely to all of the reviewers’ comments and tell where in the text those responses can be found.

The comments are often on the mark, but the applicant will be defensive and not understand the gift that they are receiving from the reviewer. Take to time to understand how the reviewer got the idea from your application. This is important feedback for your grant writing skill development. When we write, it is often from our own perspective. It is important to learn to re-read our own writing from the perspective of a new reader who might interpret a simple set of sentences in a different way from that intended.

Study how others interpret your writing, what you meant to convey, and what you actually wrote. After a while, a pattern will emerge. This pattern will help you recognize how you can change your writing style to minimize misunderstandings.

Sometimes the comments will be off base. That is not a problem. Simply respond by providing an appropriate citation or letter from a key opinion leader (KOL).

Before assuming that comments are off base, think hard. Often the comments are right on but you do not understand what the reviewer is actually saying. This can happen for a number of reasons. One reason is the natural defensive nature that we all have. Another reason is that the reviewers usually do not take a lot of time to carefully craft their reviews. Do not let this get in your way of improving your own writing ability.

When rewriting an application, take the opportunity to improve all parts of the application. This involves extensive rewriting, but that is fine. Remember, however, to specifically give the page and paragraph of the key changes that specifically address the comments of the reviewers. Do this in the one page response to previous review.

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 SBIR-STTRgrantshelp.com.



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Follow Advice 
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IF YOU PAY FOR ADVICE...

Last round I had a success rate of 30%. It could have been 70% or 100% had people followed my advice. Some applications should not have been submitted. I warned to applicants from the word go. They insisted so we went ahead. Their applications went down due to an intrinsic and insurmountable lack of Significance. The ideas were solid, but the markets were just too small or impractical.

Others insisted on using a team that was not fully qualified.

Others insisted on not providing appropriate preliminary data to answer questions raised by reviewers. Instead, they tried to argue the point. The applicants were right, but the reviewers always rule.

Some insisted on including information that they thought was essential and not including information that experience taught me was likely to be essential. This mainly concerned background information that validated the approach or technology being employed.

Others insisted on sending their application to an IRG (review group) that was not appropriate.

I will help with these resubmissions at a reduce rate because I already know the applications so well. However, the bottom line is that the resubmission process was not necessary. If you hire a professional, follow their advice. Review the above situations as they are key points to focus on in the granting process.

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 SBIR-STTRgrantshelp.com.



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