Introduction to Small Business Funding at the USDA

Introduction to Small Business Funding at the USDA

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MELINDA COFFMAN: Hi, I’m Melinda Coffman.  I’m the USDA Small Business Innovation and   Research and Small Business Technology Transfer  Program Coordinator. We are housed in NIFA,   the National Institute of Food and Agriculture,   and these programs are commonly  referred to as SBIR and STTR.   So for SBIR and STTR, there are  program goals, four of them. The  

primary one being to stimulate scientific and  technological innovations within the private   sector of the United States. And as part  of that, we want to strengthen or booster   the role of small business in scientific  innovation development. That also leads to   commercialization of these innovations,  so they don't get stuck in the pipeline. And very importantly, we want to  foster and encourage participation   by historically underserved populations.  

This is the USDA non-discrimination statement.  We take this statement very seriously. I will   summarize it by saying that the USDA is an  equal opportunity provider, employer, and   lender. Additional details are included on this  slide and a link to the USDA’s non-discrimination   statement by the way of compliance and filing  of discrimination complaints is also included in   this slide. We encourage the science to reference  this slide if you have any questions or concerns.

The USDA SBIR/STTR program, actually all SBIR  and STTR programs, are broken into three phases.   Phase I is where you use a proof of concept  research design to test the technical merit   and the feasibility of your project.  Those are usually shorter in duration,   but by testing the technical merit of  your project, it also gives you some   insight into the commercial potential for  your project. Phase II, which is typically  

longer than Phase I, you continue the research  and development of your scientific innovation,   but at the same time you start to  ramp up the commercialization of it. So Phase II is where commercialization  really begins to take more of a lead.   And then in Phase III, which is funded by  alternate sources, typically the federal   government does not fund Phase III. So in Phase  II you hopefully have done enough research and   development and enough work on commercialization  that in Phase III you have companies that are   interested in investing and helping you to fund  a continued commercialization of your innovation.

So our budget, our annual budget, is $34 million  or more. It increases a little bit every year,   so far. And for Phase I, the funding runs from   $125,000 to $175,000 and we’ll talk  about that a little bit more in detail   as we go along. For Phase I, the SBIR  projects run eight months while STTR   projects run twelve months. I also just want to  mention here that it’s easy to get, for Phase I,   up to a twelve month extension. We understand that  a lot of things, especially agricultural, they   could be crop based, and so they take a longer  time to complete the proof of concept research.

For Phase II, all of our topic areas are funded at  $600,000 dollars and those projects run 24 months.   Some of the differences between SBIR  and STTR, so for FY ’23, we added STTR   to our Phase I and Phase II RFAs and awards.  And so this will be our second year of adding   where STTR is part of our program. And so these  are just some of the differences to kind of  

help you think about whether your project  would be better suited for SBIR or STTR. So some of those elements are the non-profit  research institution, or it can be a federally   funded research and development center. For SBIR,  that’s a possibility, you may do that. With STTR,   you must do that. You must partner with a  non-profit research institution, a federal lab.   The percent of participation differs between SBIR  and STTR for the non-profit for federally funded   lab. For SBIR, it’s 33 percent of less  for Phase I and 50 percent for Phase II.  

For STTR, it has to be between 30 and  60 percent for Phase I and Phase II. And there is, if your research with a non-profit  research institution or federally funded lab is   between 30 and 33 percent, on your application you  can check both, which really kind of means either.   That you could go either way. You could do SBIR  or STTR. So there’s that one little spot in there   between 30 and 33 percent that allows you to go  either way, SBIR or STTR. But otherwise, these are   the limits on the percent of participation  for non-profit research institutions. The primary employment of the principal  investigator, that’s different for SBIR and STTR.  

For SBIR, they must, the principal investigator  must be employed with a small business. For STTR,   they may be employed with either a small  business, or the non-profit research institution.   So there is more flexibility there. A formal  cooperative agreement is required outlining  

the intellectual property rights only for  STTR. It’s not required for SBIR; just STTR.   So just a little bit so you have some idea  about the award rate for SBIR and STTR. Well, STTR programs, we don't have enough data on  that, so SBIR funding. For FY ’21, you can see it   was 15 percent, as it was for FY ’22. It stays  pretty stable at 15 percent throughout the years   for Phase I SBIR. For Phase II, it has slowly  risen. So in FY ’20 it was below 48 percent, so  

it has been steadily increasing. So 48 percent  in FY ’21 and then up to 50 percent in FY ’22.   So the success metrics for this program  include the sales of technology and services,   licenses stemming from your innovation,  and the number of new jobs created.   This is kind of how we measure the success  of the commercialization of your project. Some of the features of the SBIR  and STTR programs include that ideas   have to be investigator initiated, and  then awards are generally based on the   scientific and technical merit, as well as the  commercial potential of the innovation. So we   evaluate both those things. The PI and the  company qualifications are also important.  

Subcontracting to universities and federal labs  is another feature of the SBIR and STTR program.   And then we also offer technical  and business assistance, or TABA. And you might ask, what is technical and business  assistance? It was introduced as part of the John   S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act in  fiscal year 2019. And this list of things is just   a smattering of what it can include. It was  created to, since a lot of these projects are  

science-based, there was the thought  that a boost to the business side   and commercialization is also almost as  important as the scientific innovation. So it can include things like these, IP legal  costs, marketing, financial review, activities   related to manufacturing. And it can include a  lot of other things besides this. And this is,   the TABA does not come out of your budget. It  is something that USDA provides on top of your  

award amount. So the budget for Phase I for  TABA is $6500 dollars and that money is used   really to help build a commercialization  plan for your Phase II application.   Because in Phase I, you’re really focused  on a science, on that proof of concept,   the feasibility. In Phase II, the  commercialization piece really starts   to increase. And so while you’re still  doing scientific research, you’re also   working more towards commercialization.  So that is $50,000 in Phase II for TABA.

Our topic areas, we have ten topic areas. And  in general, our topic areas do not change very   much from year to year. Every topic area is broad  within that topic and they’re broad purposefully.   We want to cast a wide net so that we can capture  innovations. The nature of innovations is that we   can’t anticipate what they will be, so we leave  these broad and it has been that way for years.  

Occasionally if science changes some, then we  will tweak them, but they are usually very stable. And so you can see here, we have everything  from forest and related resources. We have   two plant production and protection topic areas.  One is 8.2, it’s biology. The other one is 8.13,   it’s engineering. Of course we have animal  production and protection. We have conservation of   natural resources, includes air, soil and water.  Food science and nutrition is a large topic area.  

We also have aquaculture, which may not be a  large area, but it’s a very important area.   And then we have biofuels and bio-based products. And then these other two, 8.6, rural  and community development, and 8.12,   small and mid-sized farms, they’re designated  with asterisks in a different color because   they’re just a little bit different. In  the other eight dark blue topic areas,   you have to have an innovation. And I know this  is a redundant, but to get the point across,  

you have to have a completely new innovation,  scientific or technical. In 8.6 and 8.12,   you can use an existing innovation if  it is applied in an innovative way. So you can use off the shelf technology for 8.6  and 8.12, but you must apply it in a new way.  

And I’m sorry, Tammi, would you mind backing  up one? This is also the difference in the   Phase I funding. 8.6 and 8.12, since you’re  not required to have a new innovation,   scientific or technical, although  you can, those are funded at   $125,000, while the other eight are  funded at $175,000. Sorry about that. This slide is just to remind everyone that  agriculture is very much a scientific area.   And if you have an innovation that involves  science, it might be worth your while to think   about whether or not there’s an agricultural  application for that scientific innovation. So as you can see here, we have biofuels  topic area. There’s remote sensing,  

physics, food safety, engineering, nanotechnology,   all of those things apply to agriculture and  many other scientific areas apply to agriculture.   This is timelines of the program. Typical  timelines, sometimes these timelines vary,   but this is what we shoot for every  year. For Phase I, the solicitation  

is typically released in July. This year there’s  the possibility it will be released in late June,   but around that July timeframe is when  the Phase I RFA is typically released. The proposal deadline is usually in October.  This year we’re shooting for late September,   mid to late September. And then  award, the review of the awards,   the peer panel reviews and the notifications  will go December through February. And the   start date for those projects will be July, this  would be July of 2024. And then for Phase II,  

one important thing about Phase II is  that it’s only open to Phase I awardees. So you can’t, some SBIR programs across the  government allow you to go direct to Phase II,   but USDA does not. So you must have a Phase I  which you can complete within eight months and go   directly into Phase II if you’re really motivated  to do that. You don't have to, but you can.   Those solicitations are almost always released in  December. Occasionally they’ve been in January.  

The proposal deadline is in March and the reviews  and notifications are April through June and the   start date for Phase II, 24 months, is September.  So now I’m going to hand over to Tammi Neville and   she will run you through some more slides. Tammi NEVILLE: Thank you, Melinda. So the   USDA uses a peer review process and you may  be wondering what that might mean. First,   the proposals will be evaluated by a confidential  peer review using outside experts that are sourced   through academia, industry, non-profits, and  federal labs. It’s really important that we have  

this diverse population reviewing our applications  so that we cannot have a biased panel. All of our applicants will receive verbatim  copies of the reviews from the reviewers.   Our Phase I applicants that were not  selected for funding are eligible to   reapply for Phase I funding again during the  next solicitation cycle. This sort of gives you   an extra bonus in the application process if you  mark resubmission and you have that resubmission   to address those reviewer comments. You’re given  one additional page at the beginning of your  

application in order to respond to the comments  from the previous peer review panel and how you   used those comments to strengthen your application  for the current cycle that you’re applying to. When we move into Phase II, this is  a one-time application. And so where   Melinda said you do have that option  to take that eight month award from   Phase I and apply for Phase II  at the first eligible opening,   that’s certainly and option and we don't  discourage any applicants from taking that path.   However, because you only get one chance to apply  for Phase II, there’s no resubmissions allowed,   it’s really important that our awardees take time  to consider not only if they are ready, if their   research is ready, but is the company ready to  make that jump to that Phase II application.   You want to have the strongest application  possible for that Phase II application.

Melinda had talked earlier about involvement  from outside collaborators, with university   or government scientists helping out with  these for-profit small businesses applying   through the SBIR program. Scientists may serve  as consultants or you may choose that they are   playing a larger role and you may choose to have  a subcontract with those scientists outside of   your small business. That subcontract should  be included in your budget, but that will then   allow them to continue to work fulltime at their  home institution, rather in the role of the PD   where for SBIR the PD needs to be  employed primarily by the small business. Again, please remember from the table that Melinda  showed earlier in the presentation that the   subcontracts for a Phase I application are limited  to 33 percent or one-third of the application   federal funds requested, and they’re limited to 50  percent for a Phase II award. Scientists outside  

of the small business may serve as the principal  investigator or project director if they reduce   their employment to their home institution  to 49 percent for the duration of the grant. This is important because one of the rules for the  SBIR program, not the STTR, but the SBIR probably,   is that PIs or PDs must be primarily  employed by the small business applicant.   And it’s usually not acceptable for  university or government scientists   to serve as consultants and have all the  work or research that’s done in their lab.   If we continue and we contrast this into the  STTR program, if you remember back to the table   Melinda showed, the PD or PI can be employed by  the small business or the research institution.

STTR specifically states that the small  business must perform a minimum of 40   percent of the work on the project and the  non-profit research institution must perform   a minimum of 30 percent of the research  and development work on the project.   You can see from your math that there’s an  additional 30 percent that can be either divided   to the small business, to the non-profit research  institution, or it can be outsourced to another   research institution or subcontractor at the  discretion of those filling out the application. You may wonder how can I create some of  these relationships with non-profit research   institutions? One of the options is to form a  cooperative research and development agreement,   otherwise known as a CRADA, with a federal lab  or a federal research and development facility.   The CRADA is one of the ways that we will maybe  give a little bit of a bonus to an application. If we have two proposals that were evaluated  during the peer review panel that were   marked as similar in merit, but one of those  proposals has a CRADA with a federal lab,   then we will give that funding  to the applicant with the CRADA   bolstering that transition from the federal  facility into the commercial marketplace.

You may be wondering what are some things  that I can do as a potential applicant in   order to improve my chances of succeeding in  the application phase to receive an award.   There is a lot of emphasis placed on  high scientific or technical merit,   as well as the commercial potential.  That commercial potential in Phase   I is a lesser requirement because you’re still  in that proof of concept stage. In Phase II,   that commercial potential carries a much  higher weight in the evaluation process. We do want to see the balance of that  high risk and high reward. We want   to be able to fund applicants that are  proposing research and innovation s that   are really going to rock the marketplace and  disrupt the current structures in that area.  

If you feel that there is a weakness within  your team, look to find a consultant or a   subcontractor that can fill that gap so  that when our peer review panel looks at   your application package, they don't see any holes  or gaps in the expertise of the team that has been   constructed. This could also be done by using the  CRADA that I had mentioned in the previous slide. If you don't have business expertise,  then look to see who you can partner   with in order to bring that business  expertise into the application phase.   We want to be able to see that you’re  setting yourself up not just for success   on the scientific or technical side of things,  but that your company is set up with someone   with that business expertise in order to  move this into that commercial marketplace.

Look to see, to find sources for strong letters  of support from potential Phase III partners,   from end users, or customers, or consumers,   or potentially investors. Those letters  of support carry a lot of weight with our   peer review panels. They show that there’s  a demand for the research or the innovation.   It also helps if you have a clear understanding  of the entry and sustainability in the market. Who are your competitors, how are you going  to be able to make your product stand out?   What are you going to provide that they don't  provide? How are you going to sustain your   research or your innovation in the long-term  in a commercial market? These are things that   if you can demonstrate that understanding,  you don't have to know the end goal because   you’re still in that proof of concept. But  if you can know that end goal, and you can   see where it would fit and how you would be  of benefit, those always help out as well. You might be wondering what is the process. I’m  getting ready, I’m gathering my materials and  

I’d like to apply for Phase I. A couple  of the steps that you can do now before   that RFA is even released in  preparation for an application   is to register your company with to  complete the steps necessary to register on That would include registering  your company with, or making sure   if you are already registered with,  that you have completed the annual update.

This step can take as little as two weeks, but  it can also take up to five weeks or more if you   are having some, in order to  make sure you’re getting the   UEI number from So give yourself plenty  of time in these initial steps to make sure that   these registrations are complete prior to  creating that account on so that   your application process, once you initiate that  application, can proceed in a smoother manner. Just a little bit of advice if we could give  in the next couple of slides to our applicants.  

If you have a researcher or innovation that  you think might fit within a topic area,   Melinda said these topic areas are big  and broad and encompass a lot of things.   Reach out to the topic area national  program leader for a consultation. All of our National Program Leaders, or NPLs, are  familiar with taking appointments with potential   applicants. They want to make sure that your  application will fit within the topic area, or   if it doesn’t fit within their topic  area, they could maybe give you some   other suggestions on where might be a  good fit. They want to see applicants   succeed. And if you’re not submitting  an application to the right topic area,  

the peer review panel may not as favorably,  look as favorably upon your application. Look at the RFA, follow the application guidelines  for format, page limits, and required documents.   There are very specific guidelines for each of  these elements and not following those could   result in your application not even making it to  the peer review panel. We do an administrative   review of all applications looking for  required documents, looking at formatting,   looking at page requirements. If you  don't fulfill those basic requirements,   then you may not even have a chance for the  peer review panel to evaluate your proposal.

And you put all that time into  that application, it would be very   disheartening to receive that rejection after  putting in the time and the effort to develop   that application just because you failed to follow  the guidelines that were set forth in the RFA.   Make sure that you respond to all of  the review criteria listed in the RFA. There is an entire section of evaluation criteria  listed in the RFA. Look at that, make sure you   address all those portions, but then perhaps  have somebody not even associated with this   application, maybe it’s a spouse, an adult child,  maybe it’s your next door neighbor. Have them look   at those evaluation criteria. Have them look at  your application and see did you address those.

Sometimes when we’re intimately associated with  a document, it’s easy for us to identify where we   address a specific evaluation criteria, but when  somebody not familiar with the application looks   at it, they may not notice that criteria being  addressed as strongly as you thought you did.   I talked a little bit about  the commercial potential. For Phase I, it’s really about that  vision, providing that vision of where   this is going to land in that market. What’s  the market opportunity potentially look like?   Because, as I’ve said, Phase I is that proof of  concept stage, you may not have hard and fast   values on what, monetarily, what you’re going  to come into the marketplace selling your item   for and how much your markup is going to  be so that you have your profit margins. You may not have all of that  information in Phase I. In fact,  

we would be very surprised if you did  because it’s not intended for that level.   It’s really for that development of that proof of  concept. But you need to be able to show the peer   reviewers where you see yourself and where you  see your innovation landing in the marketplace. The RFA states what the USDA priorities are.  If you can align your project with those USDA   priorities, that means you’re filling a gap of  what we are looking for. Make sure you provide   a detailed experimental plan, even potentially  including a work plan. You know, we’re going to  

work on this step for this many weeks or months.  You’re really kind of outlining how you’re going   to go through the duration of the project and  providing that plan, providing that insight to the   commercial potential and showing the connectivity  with communities. And communities doesn’t just   mean the town that you live in, but it could be  within a population that you intend to serve or   within a specific demographic, but  showing that connectivity will also help.

You heard me say multiple times and on the  previous side there was a giant green star.   Read the RFA. If all else, I realize it is very  daunting to look at a document of that length.   Follow the headlines. Read the RFA, turn it into  a searchable PDF so that if you have a question,  

you can do a control find, you can look for  key terms. Really important to read that RFA. There are assistance resources  out there for small businesses.   You don't have to feel like you’re  swimming in an ocean all by yourself.   There are small business development centers,  there’s FAST programs that are in every state -   the small business development centers in every  state. FAST programs are targeted for women,   socially, economically disadvantaged individuals,  and small businesses in underrepresented areas,   which are referred to as Hub Zones. They’re  typically in rural states, but they could be   in a more urban area that doesn’t  have a lot of business activity.

There are some websites listed on  this slide and at the bottom that   local assistance website, includes both  the small business development centers,   and the FAST programs. So you can go  to that, you can look in your state   and receive both of those at one location,  instead of going to the two different websites.   And I’ve seen come up in the chat a couple  different times, we will have these slides   available and a recording of this presentation  available once we get everything 508 compliant. Accessibility is important to us at USDA  and so once those resources are available,   we will post that information.  

We’ve started a new outreach program at USDA,  SBIR, STTR programs. In the past we have worked   to try to have about three overviews for the  program each month. We’ve participated in SBIR   outreach events such as road tours or the tech  connect meetings in Washington, D.C. We’ve had   participation at in-person events when we can.  Of course, we do have a limited travel budget,   so we have to be cognizant of that. But we really  want to foster and encourage participation in   underrepresented populations, so we’ve entered  into an outreach contract with ICF Next.

Here they’re helping us increase the breadth  and depth of our outreach. They’re helping   connect us with small businesses that are in  these underrepresented populations. They’re   going to help small businesses with their proof  of concept projects, connect innovators with   the small business development centers or  SBIR accelerator programs. They’re going to   help provide application  workshops, such as this, that   if you’re not participating in an accelerator  program, you might miss out on. And so that’s one   of the reasons for hosting this type of workshop  is so that we can reach a broader audience.

If, for chance, you are a researcher  that’s looking for a small business   partner or if you are a small business  that’s perhaps looking for an academic or   non-profit research institution partner, we’ve  got an email address here that you can reach   out to out ICF Next team and they’re working  to try and help connect these two different   populations together. Because you might not  always have the group that you’re looking   for or the partnerships already developed. You  may be missing a link within that chain. And so   reach out to our ICF Next team and  they can help work with you on that. Next I’d like to just focus on a couple of our  recent success stories within the SBIR program.   As Melinda had stated, the STTR program is new  so we don't have any success stories in STTR yet,   but we’re looking forward to a future  where we can share those as well.  

The first success story that we want  to highlight and talk about is Prairie   Aquatech. This is a company from South Dakota  that is using a process to convert soybean   meal into an accessible fish feed using a  microbial enhancement. Their product that   they’re making is called ME-PRO and they’ve  had some really good commercialization   success recently that has resulted in them  commissioning a larger building in order   to scale up their production and producing  approximately 30,000 tons of ME-PRO per year,   then it’s sold is sent to manufacturers in  twelve different countries across the world. Stony Creek Colors is another one of our  recent successes. They’ve developed an   agricultural supply chain for indigo dyes  that replaces the synthetic dyes. Their  

product is called BioPreferred. And they have  had a lot of commercial sales with this high   purity BioPreferred product with world leading  brand customers that you might be familiar with,   that are different brands, name brands  of blue jeans that use those indigo dyes. Sonsight Wind is another one that we wanted to  highlight. They have had substantial success   in receiving SBIR grants. You can see they’ve  had seven awards from 2002 to 2014. Each of   their awards has looked at different  components of small wind turbines in   order to develop its end product a small wind  turbine that can compete with rooftop solar,   even when wind speeds are at a lower capacity.  So they’ve really harnessed that technology and   made it available for a wider area of places that  don't always receive a lot of high velocity winds.

Embrex is a little bit of an older success story  for us, but we’ve left it in this presentation   because they sold out and they were purchased by  Pfizer, which is a very well-known company. They   developed a high throughput technology for  in ovo vaccination in order to enhance the   efficiency and bird performance. So this was one  of those success stories that shows that even over   a long period of time, you can have lasting  success. It gets at that longevity of where you   see your innovation falling in that marketplace,  and that sustainability of the company.   This Embrex in 2001 had $44 million in  revenues. They increased their company’s size.

Melinda had talked about the, what are  our drivers for measuring success. They   increased their company size from  less than ten employees to over 200.   And then ultimately, as I said,  they were purchased by Pfizer.   We have a brochure on the web that gives you  a broad overview of the SBIR/STTR programs,   kind of like this presentation was intended  to do, to give you that broad overview. It  

gives you a sampling of these two programs.  So go ahead and visit, check out the brochure,   visit our website for more details. Or,  you could always reach out and contact us.   We’ve got our website on this slide. You have  contact information for myself and for Melinda.

We also have a National Program Leader that is  over all the programs. So if you have a question,   maybe you’re not sure, maybe you have like two  or three topic areas that you might fit within.   And instead of having three different meetings  with three different NPLs, you could start with   a meeting with Dr. Songstad in order to try  and maybe narrow down which topic area might   be the best fit for you before you reach out to  any of the topic area National Program Leaders.

Dr. Nurun Nahar is another program specialist  with myself on the program, who is unavailable   to be with us today. So certainly reach out to us.  We’re here to help answer questions. And at this   time I think we’ll stop sharing our presentation  and we’ll focus in on any questions that may have   come in in the chat. Or, you can feel free to  turn your cameras on, turn your microphones   on and ask us questions orally as well. We’re  certainly welcome to receiving questions that way.   Did we see anything in the chat, Melinda? MELINDA COFFMAN: I tried to answer as we go along.  

So Karen asked, posted the website where you  can find our RFAs when they’re published.   There’s also, you can go, you can find them there,  but you can also go to and sign up to   be notified when any RFA is published,  whether it be SBIR or AFRI or whatever.  

So you can go in and get, sign up for notification  for any RFA you’re interested in. I think it’s   kind of a good idea to do that. Tammi NEVILLE: Absolutely. And   there are instructions on our home  page that NIFA,   That home page has instructions on how to sign  up for alerts, specifically for our  

RFAs that are announced. So I dropped our home  page in there so you can see how to sign up   for alerts, specifically for our program as well. MELINDA COFFMAN: And then we had a question about,   whether the slides will be made available to this  audience. And they will be. We just have to make   sure that they meet 508 compliance. That should  be sometime next week, Tammi, wouldn’t you say,   probably early to mid-week next week? Tammi NEVILLE: I think we have a goal   of having everything available  within ten business days. 

MELINDA COFFMAN: Okay. Tammi NEVILLE: And that   includes the recording. Then that will  be found at the same website that you   went to to go and register for the event today. MELINDA COFFMAN: Then we have another question  

about which application category would indoor  farming technology business typically fall under?   So we don't have that, a National  Program Leader on or Dr. Songstad,   who is the SBIR/STTR National Program Leader.  You might look at small and mid-sized farms.   Other ideas, Tammi? I think that  would be the first place I’d go.   That’s topic area – Tammi NEVILLE: Yeah, unless it’s a –   the only other thought I would have with indoor  farming is if it was something for larger scale.   Like if you’re thinking I won’t maybe have a lot  of impact on the small and mid-farm size scale,   but I have a vision for a larger scale impact  or facility, I guess is what I’m trying to say.  

If it’s technology based, if it’s engineering  based, not technology, if it’s engineering based,   sometimes there’s some applications that come into  8.13, plant production protection and engineering   that might include indoor farming engineering  ideas. And so it would really depend on   exactly what your indoor farming technology  was. Whether it would fit into more of that   small and mid-size farms, or whether it  would fit into the engineering category.  MELINDA COFFMAN: Yes, so those are two  places to start. And then feel free,  

if you’re uncertain after that, feel free to  contact Dr. Songstad. And Dr. Songstad, just   to be clear, can’t tell you which topic area to  apply to, but he’s familiar with all of them and   he can help give you probably more information and   more definition about the topic areas,  which should help you make a decision. Mal asked, can you give more detail on how to  determine for the rural development of small farm,   sub-topic, what constitutes application  of existing innovation as opposed to pure   innovation and the other sub-topics? That’s an  excellent question, and it made me wish that I   had an example off the top of my head, which I  do not. But this maybe is a poor example, but   that’s the only thing I can come up with  right now. We’ve had some awardees in   rural and community development that  had remote learning for children. So they used videos and various media to create  programs for children in rural areas to promote   education. That in and of itself is not new.  There are a lot of remote learning opportunities,  

including for children. But the  content of this was innovative,   the way they did this. And they’ve  gone on to have great success.   I’m going to try to think of a really good  example, because I’ll get that question again.  Tammi NEVILLE: Yeah. MELINDA COFFMAN:   Where do you find the topic program  leaders from Missouri and Illinois?   Ann Marie, I’m glad you asked that  question because this is, for USDA,   the United States Department of Agriculture, the  Small Business Innovation and Research and Small   Business Technology Transfer programs. So we’re  for all states. We’re for the United States.   And so there are business development centers.  Tammi showed you on one of the slides, like a  

website where you can find technical assistance  for SBIR and STTR grants at individual states.   But as far as topic program leaders, those  are held within the USDA for SBIR. And   they’re all listed in our RFA, and they’re  listed on our website. Does that help, Ann   Marie? Tammi NEVILLE: Yes, she said thank you, yes.  MELINDA COFFMAN: Okay, good. Tammi NEVILLE: Karen dropped a link into maybe  

help clarify the question with the indoor farming  technologies with hydroponics. I’m thinking maybe   still with small and mid-sized farms, but it  depends on the scale and where that’s going.  MELINDA COFFMAN: Yes, I think Tammi’s probably  correct. But it wouldn’t hurt to check with  

Dennis Ebodaghe is the National Program Leader  in 8.12, small and mid-sized farms. You can find   his contact information, Tammi put it there  in the chat. It’s also on our website and you   could contact him. You don't have to do it  this way. What I always suggest is that you   just write a very informal, very brief summary  of your project, one or two paragraphs at most,   within the body of the email. It doesn’t have  to be formal, and then ask for a consultation.   That’s usually pretty effective. It gives  the National Program Leader a little time  

to think about your area and interest so  they can get a response. So that would be   my suggestion. You don't have to take it.  You can just call him up if you want to.  Tammi NEVILLE: I also dropped the  link for our topic area website that   includes all of the National Program  Leaders names and contact information.   Do we have anybody that really just  wants to come off mute and visit with us,   ask us any questions, or are we doing a  sufficient job using the chat feature here?   We do have this event scheduled for another  half hour, so if you have any questions,   certainly feel free to put them in the  chat and we will work to address those.  ANNEMARIE DEUTSCHMAN: This is Annemarie, thank  you for hosting this. It has been very helpful.   We’re a startup, a small business startup with  a prototype in works right now in aquaponics.  

It’s something that we have just began the process  and also been teaching more about aquaponics.   One of the things that we’re kind of trying  to narrow in on is what topic area really this   kind of falls in. You’ve got aquaculture;  you’ve also got small farms. You know,   as we’ve been developing this business, we’ve  been approached by people who would like us to   maybe help build out a little garden. Then we also  have what we are trying to work on as a product.   And then you have the whole education piece of  what people don't understand what aquaponics is. So not sure where we really kind  of would fall in those topic areas   because we’re kind of an unusual, we are part  of the association now, Aquaponics Association,   non-profit group. So we’re just trying to figure  out that best approach and who to reach out to  

for getting more research done in our marketing  and figuring out how to get this funded.  MELINDA COFFMAN: Annemarie, that is an  excellent example of what happens to a   lot of people. They can see themselves fitting  within two or three, as Tammi said earlier,   two or three topic areas and that’s, maybe  the only downside to having broad topic areas.  

But we have tried to shore that up by having our  National Program Leader, David Songstad, available   for consultations. And I think that is where  I’d point you after hearing that explanation.   You may even have more than one project. If you have an education piece, that  would be one thing and then if you have   more of a scientific application, then that  could be another topic area, that could be   another project all together. I don't know, but I  would suggest you talk with Dr. Songstad about it.  Tammi NEVILLE: Go ahead, Annemarie. ANNEMARIE DEUTSCHLAND: Does that   mean that you can have two applications for two  subject matters simultaneously being processed?  MELINDA COFFMAN: Yes, I thought that  question might come up. Yes, you can.  

Now I guess this is obvious, but you wouldn’t  want to put, if you had two projects and you   applied to the same topic area, you’d be  competing against yourself. So you know,   if you were going to do it that way you might  want to layer them one year after another, if it   clearly fits in a certain topic area. But if you  have two different topic areas and two different   projects you can apply in the same year, as long  as they’re distinct projects and clearly distinct.  Tammi NEVILLE: We are unable  to fund duplicative work. 

MELINDA COFFMAN: Right. Tammi NEVILLE: And so,   Melinda’s comment on distinct is very important.  They have to be clearly two distinct separate   proposals that are not duplicative. MELINDA COFFMAN: And that’s true across  

the federal government for all grants. So,  you know, you cannot go with the same project,   the same type of, the same innovation, you know,  to different grant programs throughout the federal   government and try to get funded. That’s somewhat  of a dangerous thing to do because if you’re   caught doing that, there’s some penalties I  don’t think anyone here would like to pay. 

Tammi NEVILLE: Yeah. MELINDA COFFMAN: So you have to be careful   of that. At the same time, there can’t,  you can have an innovation and you can have   sometimes derivatives of that innovation that  do qualify as a separate and distinct project.   And that’s why we, that’s another reason  why we have consultations available with the   scientists that are for each topic area and for  our SBIR program, Dr. Songstad. So I would really   highly recommend that you utilize them and their  consultation time. You know, not only so that you   can pick the best fit for your topic area for your  innovation, but also to make sure if you’re doing   more than one proposal it’s distinct enough. ANNEMARIE DEUTSCHLAND: Got it. 

Tammi NEVILLE: I’d also give you a challenge. You  have a lot, you know, you had a lot of diversity.   The aquaculture topic area, unless you’re  looking at algale (phonetic) production,   like aquaponics for algae production, or something  like that or you’re looking at effects on   shellfish, fin fish, that type of thing. That  might not be where you’re headed. It would depend   on what kind of, you know, if you’re going to  use that in a way that would benefit aquaculture.   But also a challenge to you to see, and maybe  this is some time for you to think before you   reach out to Dr. Songstad, but where do you  want your company to go? Do you want your  

company to be an educational company, or do you  want that to be a side project of your company? And that’s certainly, I mean there’s  companies that have many side projects.   Do you want to build your company on the  aquaponics unit, or are you developing   something with an aquaponic unit that is special  or unique that’s going to make it better? Where   you’re headed with your company, where you see  you guys making the biggest impact, do some   thinking about that as to where you want to go. ANNEMARIE DEUTSCHLAND: Yeah, and it does make   sense. I think that the challenge has been  is that because people are unaware of what   aquaponics is, there are these two components  that almost must happen simultaneously. Because   without the education to understand, the  product doesn’t necessarily have a lot of merit   to someone, or validity to someone having  curiosity about why it would be good for them   in sustainability. Right? Tammi NEVILLE: Yeah. 

ANNEMARIE DEUTSCHLAND: So this is where the  challenge lies. I agree with you because that   has been the issue. And we’ve talked to  business leaders about focus, you know,   and having that direct focus is what you’re  speaking to. But at this rate what we’re finding  

is, the un-education piece or people not being  aware, has become a greater challenge than maybe   just having the product itself. And anyway, so  that’s kind of where we’re at. Thank you very   much, ladies, I appreciate that. We’ll reach out. GINA MANGIAMELE: Could I jump in for a minute?  MELINDA COFFMAN: Yes. Tammi NEVILLE: Absolutely.  GINA MANGIAMELE: My name’s Gina Mangiamele and  I’m a Certified Business Advisor with the New   York State Small Business Development Center and  we frequently attend your webinars to keep us up   to date. And in terms of strategy on the training  piece there, you know, partnering with an SBDC   who can help with that component, we do a ton  of training. And in some cases, you know, like  

on cybersecurity there’s a lot of clients that  we have that do that, but to educate the public. So it might be a good idea to discover  who your local SBDC is, and see if you   can create a partnership that might assist  with training and education, along with local   county economic development agencies that are  very much in tune with all of this as well,   that can lend a helping hand at no cost to  you. So, you know, the SBDCs provide a lot   of different resources, one to one counseling,  business plan development, training, all that   and we’re 1,057 centers nationwide. So  it’s free and confidential might be a   good partnership to help get that component done. MELINDA COFFMAN: I couldn’t agree more with Gina.   And I’m just, so it comes to the top of your list  here, I’m going to repost the website for that   where you can find local assistance in your state  which includes small business development centers   and many other assistance organizations.  And it’s really worth a look, I think.   Anything else, anyone? Anything else that  would be helpful to know? Anything we can   elaborate about, or answer? Tammi NEVILLE: While you   guys are thinking, oh, go ahead, Gavin. GAVIN MCMEEKING: All right, thanks. So we’ve, in  

my company we’ve had a little experience with NASA  and Department of Energy working more on climate   and we’re interested in maybe branching a little  bit into the agricultural space. I was wondering   if you could comment on maybe common problems or  weaknesses that new entrants into the agricultural   SBIR world, you know, are there any commonalities  that, you know, they tend not to have maybe enough   initial outreach with the ag community? Or maybe  just lacking technical expertise? Just curious if   there’s areas we should be particularly  attentive to as we start preparing what   we think might be a solid proposal? Thank you. Tammi NEVILLE: I have a couple of things to say.   Number one, I would make sure you read the section  of the RFA that talks about USDA priorities.  

I would look at the priorities of the topic area  that you’re going to apply to. I’m assuming with   climate that you might be considering 8.4, but  then we also have climate applications in 8.1 as   well. And so it kind of depends on whether you’re  going the air, water, soil, or if you’re going a   forestry route, which also includes grasslands. MELINDA COFFMAN: And I’ll just jump in and add   that actually all of our topic areas in,  climate change, that’s always been true. It  

was added two years ago more explicitly. And  so you’ll find when you read about the topic   areas that each one of them has climate change  as part of their priorities. And it’s included,   so it just depends on what your innovation is.  Sorry, Tammi, I just thought I’d get that out.  Tammi NEVILLE: Yeah. I thought there  was something, one more thing I was   going to say but I can’t think of it right now. MELINDA COFFMAN: Gavin, actually I would say that  

because you’ve had experience  writing SBIR and/or STTR grants,   you’re probably at an advantage because  people who are new to SBIR, STTR   are sometimes a little overwhelmed by  the RFA. Ours is one of the longer RFAs   in NIFA, the National Institute of Food and  Agriculture. But we encourage people just to   start early and really get to know the RFA. GAVIN MCMEEKING: Okay.  MELINDA COFFMAN: Have it on your nightstand. GAVIN MCMEEKING: I’m guessing it’s in the RFA,   but while I have you, so just to confirm,  letters of support are encouraged at both   Phase I and Phase II. MELINDA COFFMAN: Yes.  GAVIN MCMEEKING: I guess there’s maybe  discussion of limit, and how many you can have. 

MELINDA COFFMAN: Yeah, there isn’t a  specific limit, or number suggested.   It depends. If you have, you know, a bearer  that would write a letter of support to you,   you’re not going to need a lot of others. GAVIN MCMEEKING: Right, okay.  MELINDA COFFMAN: Some end users, you know,  some producers. Then maybe you have, you know,  

three or four, two to four, something like that.  It depends on the strength of the letter I think.  GAVIN MCMEEKING: Okay, got you. Thank you very  much, really appreciate the information and   looking forward to talking to those topic leaders  a little bit more about the consults. It’s a great   advice and we’ll be doing that. Thank you. MELINDA COFFMAN: Sure.  

Anybody else? Tammi NEVILLE: While everybody else is thinking,   I just wanted to say I just dropped in the cha,  we do have a webinar coming up in two weeks on   how to write a strong USDA SBIR STTR application.  During this webinar we are going to go maybe more   in depth about the application process, and a  little less on the general overview of the SBIR   STTR programs at USDA. So I just dropped that  link in there, where you can go to register   for that webinar. MELINDA COFFMAN:   That’s great Tammi, thank you for  doing that. I hope you all will,  

those of you who are interested, I think you  might want to apply, I hope you will attend.  Tammi NEVILLE: And if you are with an assistance  program go ahead and distribute that registration   link to those that you work with, so that they can  come and join us and learn a little bit more about   our application process. MELINDA COFFMAN:   And I will say part of the reason we’re doing an  application workshop is because every year we,   probably around a fifth of our applications  do not move to panel because something was   missing in the, that goes to the administrative  review. Once it closes we do an administrative   review and make sure all the required  documents are attached in the proper form,   make sure the formatting is as written in the RFA. And so about a fifth of those proposals don’t  make it past an administrative review. And  

we’re pretty sure that there’s some really great  ideas in those proposals that don’t go to panel.   And so we really, the application workshop is to  try to help people, make sure they dot all their   i’s and cross all their t’s so they don’t go to,  you don’t go to all that work and then don’t even   make it to panel. So, we want your innovations.  And at the risk of sounding corny, the American   public wants your innovations too. Tammi NEVILLE:   Did we give anybody time to  think about any new questions?   Comment on what fraction of non – you know,  that’s a really excellent question. Gavin asked,   the percent, basically the percentage of new  applications that get funded versus the percentage   of resubmissions that get funded. And that is  one of our projects that we’re working on for   the summer, is to come up with that, like about a  five year historical look back into the number of   new submissions versus resubmissions and those  funding rates between those two populations.

So we don’t have those exact numbers. I do know   that for the last funding year, so for  FY’23 for Phase I we did see almost   a doubling in the percentage of awards within  the resubmission population. Our new submissions   was approximately 15 percent - I think it was  14 percent, 15 percent and the resubmissions   were around 25 percent success rate. So,  there is a little bit of an advantage,  

but it is also a substantially smaller  population of applications that we’re   looking at when we talk about resubmissions. MELINDA COFFMAN: And I’ll just add to that   really briefly that there are always in every  topic area I would say, almost all the time   there are very worthy projects that we just  don’t have the budget to fund. So that’s always   a struggle for the topic areas and for us. But  that, you know, we only have the money we have   and so we really encourage resubmission. And  we really encourage looking at the panel’s  

recommendations because those are  really, it’s stressed to the panels   that they give you recommendations that will  make your application stronger. So even if,   what happens sometimes, you don’t completely agree  with them, please try to consider their comments   because that is the guidance they’re given: How  can this proposal be stronger for resubmission?  Tammi NEVILLE: Yeah. And they’re not meant  to guide your research or tell you what you   should or shouldn’t do with your research, but  really how to consider making your application   stronger, as Melinda said. MELINDA COFFMAN: Yes. 

Tammi NEVILLE: And yes, Gavin, it is not  unheard of to be funded the first time. I   was pleasantly surprised at how when I did  that math for this last fiscal year with   this last round of Phase I, to see how strongly  or how competitive the new applications were.  MELINDA COFFMAN:   All right. Well, if there’s no more questions,  and we’re happy to stick around if there are.   But if there are no more than we can let you go  early. I’m sure you’re all very busy preparing  

to write your proposals. Tammi NEVILLE:   Thank you all for coming today.

2023-06-25 01:27

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