This week, the federal government kicked off an SBIR road tour to promote their ability to invest in small businesses through grants and technology licensing. It started Tuesday in Portland, followed by Seattle, WA Wednesday then wrapping up in Anchorage, AK.

I attended due to the impressive line-up. Over a dozen federal agencies were pitching their needs to an audience of entrepreneurs, and with nearly $700 million already handed out in grants to Oregon businesses, they are worth paying attention to.

There were presentations where each agency provided an overview of their proposal process and their tips for winning contracts. One of the key themes they stressed was that all companies should have a path for commercialization. They want businesses to be able to survive on their own after the contract inevitably expires. A quick summary of almost all of them is this:

1. Go to an agency’s website and find the SBIR section, then search for your technology area. If you’re lucky, they will have a problem that you can solve.

2. Read the instructions carefully before submitting a proposal. They gave quite a few examples of application rejected for not following the directions.

3. Reach out to the program managers by email and if there’s a good fit, schedule a conference call. They are an excellent resource. Gwen at NASA told me that once the application process is open, they are no longer allowed to discuss them, so get started early by reviewing their previous year’s topics.

In one-on-one sessions, I was able to personally meet with the Dept of Defense, Homeland Security, NASA, Navy, and NIST to discuss their use of robotics. I found these made the whole trip worthwhile, as it allowed for networking and learning from folks who have been with these agencies for decades.

Excellent job by Leon Wolf, David Kenney, and the rest of the team for making the event a success!