October 19, 2016
Dear SBIR Insider,
In this issue will address a few important items including the status of SBIR, oddities with NSF, an important new book on SBIR, and the end of an era.
After 24 years, the web site ZYN.COM will com to an end as we know it. The story is at the end of this issue. If you want to continue to receive the SBIR Insider, please include the address of [email protected] in your list of approved recipients, and my email address becomes [email protected]
Now let's move on with the news.
Uncertainty in American Politics Lead to Uncertainty in SBIR/STTR
I'm sure it is no surprise to you that with politics being at its lowest level in recent memory, the near future of government programs and budgets are in disarray. Under our current Continuing Resolution (CR), our government is only funded through Dec 9, 2016, and it will be up to our returning Congressionals to address another CR (albeit short or long term) in this lame duck session of our 114th Congress. I do fear the term "lame duck" will be an insult to our fine feathered friends.
The likelihood of an SBIR/STTR reauthorization in the 114th, is virtually non-existent. In reality, after the election we will have only about 8 working months to try and pass SBIR reauthorization, and considering the last time we fought for reauthorization, it "only" took from Oct of 2008 to December of 2011. Keep in mind, our community started to fight for the 2008 reauthorization back in 2006!
Although many incumbents are likely to get re-elected, there will be a significant number of new people elected (both House and Senate). Staying away from party politics (i.e. who will control House & Senate), one thing is common to both parties, newbies are often put on committees of lesser standing, which include "Small Business" (in both House and Senate, and "Science, Space & Technology" in the House. This is not so much the case for the Armed Services Committees, who will play a role in SBIR reauthorization.
Over the years the newbie factor has been a major reason why "educating" our new members of congress, (as well as refreshing incumbents) about the SBIR program, is so important! You know the "University Elites" (UEs pronounced YOU-EEs) are, and will be spending tens of millions to get every nickel of grant funding available for themselves (and that includes funds that would be used for SBIR). Note: this does not include all university people, there are many in the universities who see SBIR as being a useful tool in their programs, BUT the majority of the UEs in S&T see SBIR as taking their research money away.
Okay, I'm just going to come out and say this, and if I lose you, I'm sorry, feel free to unsubscribe, but the following is indisputable: We always knew the opposition party (the one you're not with) was dirty, but now you know your party is also dirty. It's immaterial who is dirtier, but what is germane is knowing how to "legally" work with the elected officials who can support your program. To do that, you have to show "what's in it for them." If SBIR creates jobs in their constituency, you give them credit and publicly thank them (not to mention a contribution to their fund raising efforts if appropriate).
Congressional education, or (L)education, as former Dept of Education's SBIR PM Lee Eiden described it, should be done at local and national (DC) levels, and by individual as well as collective efforts. Collective efforts are done by advocacy groups, the largest SBIR group is Small Business Technology Council (SBTC), but there are others as well, and we'll discuss in the next issue (unless you fire me).
NSF SBIR/STTR Oddities
First a disclaimer: I like many of the people involved with the NSF SBIR/STTR programs, and I know they work hard and want to do a good job. On the other hand, the agency itself has some rules of its own that seem to fly in the face of what the programs are supposed to, and how they are supposed to help. Let's investigate.
Oddity 1: Limit on Number of Proposals per Organization: 1
NSF only allows a small business to submit 1 proposal per solicitation, even though their solicitations are moderately large and contain very open topics. Don't take my word for it, here is the actual verbiage from their current solicitation:
"An organization may submit no more than ONE Phase I proposal to this SBIR/STTR cycle (where SBIR/STTR cycle is defined to include the SBIR Phase I solicitation and the STTR Phase I solicitation with a December 5, 2016 deadline). This eligibility constraint will be strictly enforced. In the event that an organization exceeds this limit, the first proposal received will be accepted based on earliest date and time of proposal, and the remainder will be returned without review. No exceptions will be made."
On the other hand, NSF in their Q&A page at https://www.nsf.gov/pubs/2015/nsf15125/nsf15125.jsp#q11 their guidance (as of 10-19-16) is:
Q. "May a small business submit two different Phase I proposals during the same submission cycle?"
A. "While a small business may submit two Phase I proposals to the same deadline, applicants are encouraged to contact the appropriate NSF SBIR/STTR Program Director(s) before doing so. In general, it is preferred that proposing small businesses, especially those with limited resources, focus on submitting one strong proposal that best aligns with the commercial goals of their business and the NSF SBIR/STTR program goals."
Here's where I will respectfully disagree (bordering on disrespectfully). Why did NSF put a limit of TWO proposals per company (considered ridiculous by most of the SBIR community) THEN compound that with reducing it to ONE? That's unprecedented in SBIR/STTR, and congress is being told by some agencies that SBIR/STTR allocations should actually be reduced due to falling numbers of submissions! Duh!!!!
Oddity 2: Limit on Number of Proposals per PI or Co-PI: 1
NSF again is the only SBIR/STTR program that restricts a person functioning as a Principal Investigator (PI) to only ONE proposal per solicitation. Let me know if you think I'm mistaken here, but this is an outrage!
For your consideration I present evidence in NSF's own verbiage from their solicitation (see https://www.nsf.gov/pubs/2016/nsf16599/nsf16599.htm ): "No person may be listed as the principal investigator for more than one proposal submitted to this solicitation."
Now let's look at what NSF considers task loading for the PI: "A PI must devote a minimum of one calendar month per six months of performance to an SBIR or STTR Phase I project." Even if we double that, it still leaves plenty of time for the PI to do other projects (such as other SBIR/STTRs), which happens frequently in other agency SBIR/STTR programs. Is the small business being forced to keep the PI on overhead, because the PI must be primarily employed by the small business (meaning at least 51%)?
Oddity 3: In STTR the PI Must be Primarily Employed by the Small Business
In STTR, four out of the five agencies allow (but not require) the PI to be from the Research Institution (RI). In fact, the RI must have a minimum of 40% to a maximum of 60% of the research effort, but unlike the other agencies, NSF does not allow the PI to be primarily employed by the RI, they must be primarily employed by the small business.
This seems to be without merit, and further restricts flexibility for the small business to partner with the RI. SBA had to amend their STTR Policy Directive to accommodate this NSF oddity.
In light of these and other NSF oddities, I've heard multiple third party assistance organizations advise their clients to bypass the NSF SBIR/STTR programs for other SBIR opportunities. This is a shame because the NSF has some excellent people and resources to run a fine program.
Submissions are due by Dec 6, 2016.
A New and Important Book on SBIR and Small Business Struggles
* This is not a book review, but a book awareness notification for the advanced SBIR and small business community.
The new book "While the Nation Slept" hit the streets with quite an impact for the SBIR aware audience. Written by David Metzger, the book is a passionate view of SBIR from its creation through the struggles of today. Metzger is a well known and respected Small Business and SBIR attorney, who is one of the few remaining "originals" from the inception of the SBIR program.
In my 1990's "Johnny-come-lately" SBIR advocacy role, I have the pleasure of knowing Barrister Metzger and the other two remaining SBIR "originals," Ann Eskesen of Innovation Development Institute, and Jere Glover of the Small Business Technology Council. Each of these three people have uniquely different perches and views of SBIR history, much of which has been shared with me.
"While the Nation Slept" is solely the work and view from David Metzger who over his professional career became one of the fiercest legal warriors for small businesses and those participating in government contracting and the SBIR programs. Although Metzger is now retired (leaving a huge vacancy in our community) he had been working on this book for quite some time and it has been a passion of his.
This book is not an easy read, nor for enjoyment. It is an in depth study of many technical and legal issues that small businesses have been struggling with, as well as considerable guidance on how you can win a battle with an agency, only to lose the war. Metzger knew when to fight, when to deal, and when to fold and accept loss. This is made very apparent in the case studies he cites. Everything from IP to DCAA are discussed.
I highly recommend this book for moderate to advanced SBIR companies, especially those who participate in the DoD SBIR where the acquisition community is involved. Metzger will take you on a tour of some tremendous cases, while he highlights some unbelievable actions on the part of our government against small business. It could very well give you a "heads up" on what to avoid.
While the Nation Slept is available on Amazon at
Note to Dave Metzger: Dave, thanks for the kind comments about my work, but after 20+ years I thought you knew my name is "Rick Shindell" not "Rick Zyn". However, I've been called worse :) Kudos on your excellent work.
SBIR/STTR Innovation Summit
Don't forget the 2016 SBIR/STTR Innovation Summit is being held Nov 29 - Dec 1, 2016 in Austin Texas. It is collocated with the Defense Innovation Technology Acceleration Challenges. Most of our SBIR agency people will be there, and there will be opportunities to speak one-on-one with agency representatives.
Details at http://defenseinnovation.us/sbir.html
I'm hoping to be there and I'll be looking for you.
The End of ZYN.COM
After 24 years, the web site ZYN.COM will com to an end as we know it. A new company (not related to Zyn Systems) will be taking the domain and it will bear no relationship to SBIR or Zyn Systems.
We are building a new website that we hope to launch in mid November, but in the mean time any zyn.com pages for the SBIR Gateway you had bookmarked should go to zynsys.com/sbir instead of zyn.com/sbir
In recent times the importance of the SBIR Gateway on zyn.com/sbir has diminished because sites like sbir.gov and the various SBIR agencies' websites have vastly improved and serve you pretty well.
That being said, we will still be active and build a new site to help, but not compete with the agencies. The SBIR Insider will continue (unless you all fire me and unsubscribe).
Thanks for reading. This is [email protected] saying "Over and Out."
This and back Issues of the SBIR Insider are available at www.zynsys.com/sbir/insider
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