Understanding Your AwardIT Review

AwardIT provides our clients with a simulated agency evaluation of their SBIR grant application—before they actually apply.  The goal is simple: maximize chances for an award.

All US government agencies, by statute, will have an SBIR program.  But their program focus and methods of evaluating which grants will be awarded will differ—as will also the ways in which they communicate those evaluations to applicants.  However, in our experience as grant writers, reviewers, and consultants, there are 5 major themes that are central to any good SBIR application to any agency.  These are:

  1. Significance: Who will be impacted by your innovative product/service
  2. Innovation: What is unique about your product/service; ie, how is it better/cheaper/faster than what is available in the same category today?
  3. Experimental Plan: Let’s say you win the award.   How will you spend the money from the funding agency to demonstrate proof of concept and/or further reduce the risk of bringing your product/service to market.  Be explicit as to the Aims of your R+D project and explain clearly the experimental Milestones you will achieve to demonstrate project success at various stages.
  4. Team: What makes you and your team the right people to fund for this particular project
  5. Environment: Demonstrate you have the physical resources needed to carry out the proposed R+D project

The AwardIT Review Form you will receive follows closely the structure of the Summary Statement provided by NIH Review Panels.  (You can see a demo of the AwardIT Review Form here) That form uses the above breakdown of categories and also presents a numeric score from 1 – 9 to indicate the strength/weakness of the proposal in that category.  Scoring is like golf—that is, you want the lowest score possible in each category as possible.  Reviewers will then amplify on their numeric score to provide specific suggestions/comments in areas that in their judgment they consider to be Major/Minor Strengths and Weaknesses of your application.

Note that a poor score in any one category does not necessarily mean the proposal overall is too weak to win; strong scores in other categories may offset these.  For example, a proposal that is not strong on Innovation may still score well on Significance and still overall be favorably viewed by Reviewers.  For this reason, we provide a space at the end of each Review for their commentary on the overall application.

To obtain a diversity of views, and also simulate as closely as possible an actual agency review, we recommend using 3 Reviewers.  However, we recognize that some businesses will want to minimize costs and therefore we offer the option of using only one or two Reviewers.   At present we are limiting the maximum number of Reviewers to three but may relax this constraint in the future.

Above all, you and your team should try to read your review in the spirit in which it is intended—to make your grant as good as it can be.  Reviewers have to be free to express their views, positive or negative, so that you can use the information to course-correct your application in a timely fashion.  This is one reason why AwardIT keeps Reviewers’ identities anonymous.  A negative review can make for hard reading but bear in mind that SBIR grants are extremely competitive.  Every applicant is up against not only the opinions of the agency reviewer panel but also all the other applications that panel is evaluating.  It’s critical to use every tool in the toolbox to maximize the chances of success.

If you have any questions don’t hesitate to reach out to us at info@awardit.net…. Happy Hunting!

The AwardIT Team

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