Transcript: DoD Funding Strategies 2: Understanding the Options of DoD Funding
A little bit more about my background. I was trained as an academic research scientist in neuroscience and then went on to work for Department of Defense because they hire a lot of scientists to help them manage some of their research funding. At one office, I worked as a liaison between scientists and the DoD to help them manage the awards they had. Then I also worked in an office that helped develop those solicitations that you’ll answer to and apply to, and decide how to structure those. Since then, I turned around and left the DoD to start my own medical device startup and successfully used the skills I had to apply for my own NIH and NSF SBIR awards. I’ve seen both sides of the table.
I understand the process as an academic researcher applying or as a startup founder and I also understand what the DoD perspective is when reviewing and putting out solicitations. A little context about where I was working within the DoD. I was in a branch traditionally with the US Army and they have a bunch of program offices around the country, focused on developing different technologies. I was at one focused on medical research and development at USAMRDC, up in Frederick, Maryland. I’m going to try and give you guys a broad overview of some DoD principles and rules, but most of my experience and examples are going to come specifically from my work in medical research up at this one location. Just a note, I have left the DoD since then, so I am no way acting as an official representative of DoD today. I’m just going to share with you some of the rules of DoD processes I learned when I was there and some of the lessons learned from that.
When we worked at the office, we used to joke that it shouldn’t be this hard to give away money and we talked about this at last week’s webinar, but basically, I want you to understand how the DoD, everyone working there, their job is to get this research money out the door and they have their own challenges in workload too to that. I want to help you better understand the DoD’s perspective so you can help them do that job of getting money out to researchers. Last week, I also did a webinar and I gave more context on the broad DoD perspective and what they’re trying to get done. If you didn’t make that one, I encourage you to go back and look at that. Last week we talked about broadly the DoD goals. We usually think of them as one of the government agencies who’s actually looking to take advantage of the technology they invest in.
They often want to be the customer and user for the research they’re funding. However, this is not always the case. There are instances where, just like NIH or NSF, they are just funding research for the general public good and advancing knowledge. It’s really good to understand which type of opportunity you’re applying for so you know what their goal is. We then talked about when they are looking to develop something for the military use, how that fits into the DoD acquisitions life cycle, which is just their process for investing in technology to fit some unmet need. That was covering what their motivation is and what they’re trying to get done. Then we talked about the general rules that they have to work under, across the federal government, and also some DoD specific concerns.
Today, what I want to go into is specifically, once they decide on what technology to invest in, how they’re going to get that money out the door to investigators or all those non-federal researchers. I’m first going to cover some of the funding or award mechanisms and the way they can agree to give you money. Then I’ll talk about funding solicitations, basically how they publish or advertise the opportunities for you to submit proposals. I’ll then share some resources you can go to find more information and we’ll have some time for Q&A. I did want to get a quick poll first from you guys, just to know what your awareness is of DoD. Just check really quick which DoD funding opportunities you’re aware of so far and you can click more than one. Perfect. What I expected. It sounds like most people are familiar with the SBIRs and then some with grants, and others.
I think it will be really good because one of the main goals in this I have is to make sure you’re all aware of opportunities beyond just the SBIRs because that’s a really small piece of the pie for DoD funding. Great. This is a fun graph from last week and this is just to give you context of DoD, their process for investing in getting funds for science and technology. This is from last week and I’m not going to go into it too much, but this is their acquisitions life cycle and it just defines the different stages they have of technology development they move through in order to address some unmet need they have in the military. It basically shows in each of those colors how they move from exploratory research to proof of concept work, to prototyping, refining that prototype, manufacturing, spend to deployment, and then just some kind of operations and support or maintenance of that technology.
They have different stages for each and they have different pots of money for each of those stages of technology development. What I’m going to be talking about today is these early stages for more science and technology and research and development, where you’re doing proof of concept or prototyping of something. I’m not going to talk about any manufacturing or money for deploying technology. When we’re talking about these earlier stages, we’re mainly in this type of these buckets of money they have from 6.1, 6.2, or 6.3. With this different type of money for earlier technology development, they could put out certain types of solicitations or opportunities to fund investigators. This is where we’re going to focus today. Now, here is what we’re going to go over for most of the webinar, is the different types of funding solicitations and this is the way the government can tell you what they want to fund and detail all the ways you should submit a proposal to them.
Then we’re going to go also over the funding mechanisms, which is once you’ve submitted a proposal and they decide to fund you, what the terms and conditions are of how they’re going to give you that money. Basically, there are pros and cons of each of these. I want you to understand all the opportunities so you can be a bit more strategic about which ones you apply to. The reason I’m going over both of these is for one type of funding opportunity or solicitation like a Program Announcement. A Program Announcement is most similar to NIH’s Funding Opportunity Announcement. That’s going to lead to a certain type of funding mechanism, probably a grant like an assistance agreement or cooperative agreement. If instead you want to see an opportunity that’s an RFP or Request for Proposals, that’s going to lead to a procurement contract, which has very different rules than being awarded as an assistance agreement.
It’s important to know to make sure you are prepared for the rules of how they’re going to give you the money. I’m going to go a little bit backwards and I’m actually first going to go over the funding mechanisms and how they officially give you the money. The first one is an assistance agreement and this is most similar to what we think about as a grant if you typically worked in a university environment. This is when the government probably has some research priorities they want to invest in. Say, for instance, we have a research program in autism and they’ve decided we need to focus and invest more in diagnostics for autism. Then within that, they might list some specific areas that they want people to focus on, so say we need more objective behavioral measures of autism and we think that’s a high priority.
They don’t know yet, however, what solutions they want for that or what specific product they want in response to that research priority, so they’re telling you what they’re interested in, but they’re looking for you as the investigators to submit to them different solutions of what you’re working on to address that broad research priority. For this specific type of agreement, the researcher does not need substantial involvement from the DoD, so this is something you can do independently. You’re not looking for a collaboration with a DoD or some kind of back and forth conversation with them. You can do your research at your organization and the DoD is just monitoring that you spend the money appropriately. Because they don’t really know what they’re looking for yet in a solution and it’s early high-risk research, these grants, we call best effort.
They’re giving you the money and there’s a high likelihood when you do the research, your hypothesis might fail or it might turn out to be too technologically challenging. Your funding is not contingent on getting a certain outcome or deliverable from your research efforts. The only deliverables or outcomes they’re expecting from these are some kind of progress report for you to just update them on the status of your research. This could be quarterly or annual reports. They often ask for quad charts, which is a one-page summary of things. They might ask you to come in person for a few days, for an in-progress review and present on your work and they’ll probably ask for invention reporting to let them know if you’ve submitted any patents on the research you did. The only thing they’re expecting are just updates on how things went.
Your funding is not contingent on some specific prototype working at the end. This is governed by a certain set of regulations called the DoDGAR or DoD Grants and Agreements Regulations and it is not under a more onerous set of regulations called the Federal Acquisitions Regulations. DoDGAR is important for this and most of these agreements are going to come from opportunities you see posted on Grants.gov. Cooperative agreements are very similar. They’re also a grant. The only main difference here is that the researcher has substantial involvement with the DoD, so you’re not just going off and doing this independently at your own organization. You are working closely throughout the award with the DoD and getting their input. Otherwise, it’s still the same best effort and just progress reports. The next type of agreement which is very different is a contract or procurement contract.
This is where the government gets a bit more specific in what they need and what they want in return, and it’s no longer that kind of best efforts structure for the funding. There is a broad range of ways that they might be agreeing to give you the money under a contract. There’s a lot of different ways the funding can be set up. You can have things like a firm-fixed price, a cost-reimbursement, or something that’s just time and materials. It just changes who is taking the risk in how much it costs to do the work. Most of the time for early-stage research projects, you’re not doing time and materials. You’re sending them a budget and if you end up having to spend more than that to get the work done, you’re the one taking on that risk. Just be aware there’s different ways this is structured for contracts. One of the biggest differences from the grants is that they can ask for more deliverables during a contract.
If they want something specific in return, they can negotiate that during contract negotiation, so it’s all up to be negotiated. Oftentimes, this is why the military wanted something to be a contract instead of a grant because they might want something more than a progress report and want you to send them a copy of an instruction manual or a clinical guidance documents or a prototype so they can show it off as well. One specific type of deliverable, which is a really fun form, is called the CDRL or Contract Data Requirements List. This is basically when they want to purchase or make sure you send them data of some sort at the end of the award. This is going to be covered more by the FAR than the DoDGAR and you might have a contract given to you if you apply to the solicitations, either on FedBizOpps or Grants.gov.
I’ll go over that more with the solicitations, later. FYI, anytime you’re going to start applying for government money, you need to make an account on SAM.gov. There are additional steps if you want to apply for contracts and not just grants. If you’ve only ever applied for grants before, make sure you check your status in SAM.gov, that you are eligible for these. Oftentimes, when we were managing a contract instead of a grant, we had to approve more invoices, so the investigator is actually sending us invoices. It can also change some of the staffing capabilities at DoD, so we always had a mixture of government employees and contractors working together to manage different awards. The contracts have stricture regulations. That it needs to be a government employee, not just a contractor, so it’s sometimes hard for them to staff these.
Very briefly, there’s another word mechanism called MIPR or FAD. This is just a type of agreement if the government DoD wants to send money to another government agency. For most of you, this is probably only relevant if you wanted to have part of your award subcontracted or partner to some federal laboratory or military institute. Small detail, but if you did want to collaborate with somebody as part of your award, they’ll probably have to do this weird process and segment some of the money in this other mechanism. CRADA is not actually a funding mechanism, but I’ll just mention it briefly. This is a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement and basically, it’s another way for you to collaborate or share resources between yourself and a federal laboratory or other kinds of federal institute. If you want to make use of some equipment that’s only available at a military lab, you can arrange a CRADA.
You can give funds to that federal laboratory if you want to support them doing work for you. However, with this mechanism, no funds from the government will go to a non-federal government organization, so you will not get any money from the government under this mechanism. The last one is a fun one we’ll talk about more later, is just the Other Transaction category and this is any award mechanism to give you money, other than a contract grant or cooperative agreement. This is basically a way they realized they needed something faster than the typical slow process of the Federal Acquisitions Regulations and giving contracts. This is specifically intended to move things faster for fast prototyping research or production. There are certain rules along with this one. It’s mainly preferred for what we call nontraditional contractors, which is someone who’s not doing a ton of work with the DoD already or small businesses.
Or if you are a traditional contractor and you’ve done big contracts with the DoD before, you just have to do some cost-sharing or partner with another small business. The whole point of this mechanism, to give other people money from DoD, is that it is not governed by the FAR and can move faster and this has led to some really interesting new solicitations. That’s the way they can give you money and the terms and conditions that come with it. It’s just good to understand those because it can be a lot more onerous to have a contract than a grant, so you might just want to make sure. Know which one your award can turn into before you start applying to solicitations. Now we’re going to just spend most of the rest of the time going over the different types of funding solicitations. This is how they’re telling you they’re asking for proposals and the instructions for you to write a proposal to them.
The first one is the Program Announcement that we called a PA and this, again, is no similar to an NIH that does a funding opportunity announcement or you want to get funded an R01. This will lead to an assistance agreement or cooperative agreement, so some kind of grant. Where I worked, we had multiple research groups putting these out. I was in the military-focused research programs, but we also had a research program that was just based on medicine, that wasn’t military-focused and was medicine for the public good, things like breast cancer and autism. That group, which is known as CDMRP, put out a lot of Program Announcements, and that was their main funding vehicle. Again, just to reiterate from before, the Program Announcements are when DoD has a general research topic area of priority, but they’re looking for the investigators to propose the research projects or solutions, so they’re not quite sure what they’re looking for yet.
It’s going to be earlier in that acquisitions life cycle, earlier in technology development. These Program Announcements typically announce a specific budget or timeline. We might put out a Program Announcement where our total budget is 10 million and we’re going to award five, $2 million grants, and your award period is, say three years, so you should propose a research project that takes three years for that budget. They can lead to assistance agreements or cooperative agreements, so again, it’s that best effort. The only deliverable is progress reports and you will find these announcements on Grants.gov. Specifically, where I worked, in medical products, most of these were coming out of CDMRP. I definitely encourage you to check out their website. These awards, basically, they just can’t go to individuals. They can go to organizations. This includes for-profit companies.
A lot of people just look at SBIRs, thinking that’s where for-profit companies can go, but any of these solicitations I’m talking about, you’re still eligible, even if you’re a for-profit company or a nonprofit university, et cetera. SBIRs are only for for-profit companies, but you can still apply beyond that. These awards, when you submit your proposal, are going to go through a peer and programmatic review process. Because they’re going to get a wide range of solutions and they don’t know exactly what they’re looking for yet, we have that peer review score for scientific merit. That is a bit more subjective than saying, “We are looking for exactly this checklist of items and we’re going to see who can do it at the lowest cost.” It’s more a panel of experts who are subjectively making a score to the scientific merit they receive. If you want to look specifically for some PAs from MRDC, for medical products, you can use this keyword on Grants.gov.
These can be managed by most government contractors or employees, so staffing is less an issue. Now, the rest of the solicitations we’re going talk about beyond just the Program Announcements are mainly just focused on the military research programs. These other ones I’ll discuss don’t really have that same general health topics, public purpose. It’s more for when the military wants a product for their own use. The next one that I often encourage people to apply to is the Broad Agency Announcement or BAA. This is a bit of a grab bag and it can lead to multiple different types of award mechanisms between a grant or a contract. They are very broad topic areas. Each of those military research groups will just add a short paragraph on their general mission and what they’re focused on, but really, they’re looking for the investigators to suggest a more focused project or research area.
We’ll write a quick blurb of what we’re interested in, that’ll be on the BAA for the next couple of years, but it’s just short. It’s not identifying key topic areas. There is no defined budget or timeline, so the investigator is submitting a proposal and you just submit whatever budget and timeline you think is appropriate, so it could be a wide range of different budgets and timelines. The thing is, for this BAA, there’s no guaranteed funding available. When we put out a Program Announcement, we know we have 10 million to fund five awards. The BAA is just open-ended and it’s rolling submission. You can apply to at any time. What this means is you could submit a proposal there and get back a response, that they really like it. They just don’t have money for it, for you at this time and you’ll be called an unfunded requirement. They can then hang on to your proposal for two years.
What this means is it can be frustrating that they don’t have money right then for it. What we talked about last week is it’s a good way to be a back pocket, grab bag for them when they have extra money left over at the end of the fiscal year. As I said last week, there is a time pressure for them to get research money out the door because they use it or lose it. They always want to make sure they show that they spent all their research dollars. If something else falls through and they often have leftover money, the BAA is a good place for them to grab miscellaneous projects with a much quicker review cycle. I encourage people to look at this. Talk to the program staff there and see if it’s a good fit to submit for the BAA. This can lead to a contract or grant and it’s a bit of a hodgepodge. You don’t really know when you submit which one is going to end up being and what the terms will be, of the award.
Sometimes the Research Program Portfolio Manager decides they really want a deliverable, other than progress reports and so they’ll ask for it to be a contract, say they want you to send them a prototype when you’re done. Other times, the research program staff doesn’t really care if it’s a grant or contract, but the contracting office who actually does the formal paperwork decides it needs to be a contract. This could be as simple as, in your proposal, you use the term deliverable, not knowing the actual definition and they saw that and decided, well, if you’re going to give us a deliverable, then it has to be a contract. Be really careful in your use of the word deliverable if you’re submitting to something like this and just make sure you’re using it appropriately. On Grants.gov, the PA will be posted and the BAA, and other mechanisms like this.
On Grants.gov, you’ll see when a solicitation is posted, what type of awards it can turn out to be. It’ll say, “For the Program Announcement, this will only be an assistance agreement.” For the BAA, it’ll tell you, “This could be assistance agreement, cooperative agreement, or a contract” so you know what you’re getting into when you look at Grants.gov. There’s also something called a targeted BAA, which I’m not going to get into, but don’t be surprised if you see that somewhere. Now we’re going to get into more strict contracts. Another solicitation type is a Request for Proposals or RFP and this is only going to become a contract or procurement contract. This is usually when the DoD is getting more specific in what they want for outcomes. It’s always going to be a contract, so it’s governed by the FAR and so this is typically later in that acquisitions or technology development life cycle because we’ve gotten to the point we know exactly what we want it to look like at the end of the project, so it’s more prototype refinement.
Sometimes this is a gray area. A lot of times we in our office would be talking about wanting to invest in a technology or fund some gaps. We would think it was going to be a Program Announcement or a BAA. We’d send it to the contracting office and they would tell us, “You’re too specific about what you want. It has to be an RFP.” We start getting into, it needs to be a prototype of this weight or less than this weight or this size or these parameters. They might tell us it has to be an RFP now and this comes down to, it gets into very specific review criteria. We have a checklist of things we want the proposal person to do and what outcomes we expect. Then we will look at to see who can meet all those checkboxes and do it for the lowest price. This then leads to it being reviewed differently.
Instead of peer review, it’s going to be reviewed by a source selection board, which is typically government employees who go down that checklist and see, who did all those specific things we asked for, and who can do it for the best price? It’s no longer just that scientific peer review. This also leads to much stricter rules on how they can communicate with you when you have questions on how to write your proposal. The RFPs and the FAR usually have strict regulations on making sure it’s a fair competition. Any advice we give one person, we have to make sure everyone has access to it. Typically, there’s a communication period where if you ask us a question, then we have time to post it for everyone to see our answer. If you’re talking to an office that does all these different types of solicitations, and like I said, we don’t always know which one it’s going to be, they might be more conservative in wanting to talk to you and just err on the side of caution and being hesitant to communicate with you.
Don’t be surprised if you see that, but sometimes it’s good to remind them that, hey, right now, it’s the open period. They can answer these questions, but don’t be surprised if they are a bit more hesitant to give you advice. Like any other contract, this one again is important because they can ask for different deliverables and they can negotiate that, so they might ask for a lot more than for a grant. You’re going to find these on FedBizOpps. Next one that sounds like most of you were already familiar with is those Small Business Innovation Research grants or SBIRs. At the DoD, these typically lead to contracts. This is a funding opportunity across multiple agencies, not just the DoD. It’s any agency in the US that has a certain research budget. A small percentage of that research budget has to go for small businesses to work on commercializing technology, so it’s funding set aside.
It’s nice for some offices. There’s a little extra bit of money they can take advantage of to fund some technologies they’re interested in. The review criteria though are more set by the small business administration. Whereas our research program will suggest some topics for the SBIR, but a lot of the process is out of their hands and determined by SBIR and the small business administration. Some offices in the DoD really like SBIRs. It’s a pot of money. They like the criteria already set. Other groups may not write them any solicitations. They don’t like losing control of the review criteria. They want to be able to ask for their own deliverables and set the terms. There’s going to be a wide range of interests in SBIRs across the DoD and some are just less familiar with it than others. One thing that’s different for DoD is that when you’re awarded SBIR DoD, it’s probably going to be a contract and this varies across different government agencies.
At NIH or National Science Foundation, an SBIR is going to be awarded as an assistance agreement. There’s slightly different terms for each, so it’s good to be strategic when you’re first looking at SBIRs to know if you’re prepared for a contract as opposed to a grant. One other thing I mentioned last week too for SBIRs is because the DoD has an extra level of regulatory review for any human subjects or animal or research, it’s not typically feasible to do human subjects work or animal work at DoD SBIR for the six months Phase I. There’s just not enough time to do their second level of review process. It’s good to know how the SBIRs can differ and the rules might differ for DoD versus other agencies like NIH or NSF. Because these are a contract, it’s also an issue that it’s stricter in what staff can manage it in the DoD. DoD has a ton of SBIR money. They have a pretty big budget.
Sometimes the bigger hurdle is that they just don’t have enough staff to manage the award. Again, don’t be surprised if certain offices aren’t doing that much with SBIRs because they can’t get what they want out of it or specific deliverables and they don’t have the staff to manage it. Sometimes we would see the SBIR office will let us know there’s an opportunity to write another topic for an SBIR and it would just pass by us because we didn’t have time to write the topic or didn’t know what we’re going to get out of it. It doesn’t hurt to be communicating with a research program at the DoD to let them know you have a cool technology out because that might inspire them to write a topic for an SBIR if they know something’s out there, that’s worth investing in. There are some other big benefits of doing SBIR and it’s basically that there are rules to give you preference to continue working with you for that technology in the future.
Normally, if they invested in some technology with an organization, say an RFP and at the end of it they got all the plans and details of how to make that technology from that group, the next phase of technology developments, they would have to put out a competitive RFP and make it open for everyone. Then give them all a fair shot to decide who’s going to develop the technology next. With the SBIR if you’re an awardee, you can get a sole source justification for the future, which means they can skip the competitive process and go straight to you to fund you for the next stage of development and give you preference of that small business that was funded. This is across the government as well. If you had an SBIR from NIH or NSF, the DoD can still use sole source for you if they want to leverage your technologies from the future. Don’t be afraid to brag about this.
This is a huge plus for them to skip that competitive process and not everyone’s aware of it, so don’t be afraid to market that. Not only can they skip that competitive process and go straight to you. They also are supposed to give you preference, so they should give you a first shot at it. I don’t know how often this actually happens or what the consequences are if they don’t, but they’re supposed to be doing that. Similarly, you get certain data rights as an SBIR awardee and what this means is instead of doing an RFP and then handing them off all your plans or details on the technology to them at the end of the award, they could then have the option of taking those instructions and handing it to another third party to develop it within the government. With the SBIR data rights, they cannot share that for the use within the government, with another third-party vendor.
Again, it’s just that preference. They have to go to you for the next stage of that development. The sole source and the SBIR data rights, has changed a bit in 2019. I think it’s expanded. The data rights last now from four years to 20 years. I have to check on that, but there have been some recent changes to this. Big pluses of having SBIR. It can be more competitive and DoD because more people know about it. Don’t ignore these other solicitations, but be aware of some of the big benefits if you are an SBIR awardee. A couple of noteworthy innovations. They’re getting creative with these. SBIRs are still pretty slow too to get through the review process and actually get the money awarded. The Air Force did something really innovative with an Air Force Pitch Day and they changed it to just doing a five-page white paper and a pitch deck.
They had a one-day pitch competition and awarded someone the same day, so a one-day event versus a huge long process. They’re looking to do more of these in the future, I believe. This was just last year. Definitely check that out. All right. Last one I’m going to discuss is a fun new topic with the Other Transaction Authority and this is just that other funding mechanism. This, again, leads to an agreement for anything other than a contract grant or cooperative agreement. It’s intended to allow them to invest in things at a faster pace than the typical Federal Acquisitions Regulations. It’s intended only for research prototypes or production and we mainly talk about it as a fast prototyping mechanism. There are some stipulations with this. That it’s supposed to go to a nontraditional contractor or small business, so it can’t be a huge contractor.
There’s a ton of business with the DoD on the regular. It can be a traditional contractor, but they just had to do a certain cost-sharing or partner with a nontraditional group. The biggest thing with this is that it’s just not governed by the FAR, so it can move a lot faster and it less will define rules. Everyone’s figuring out the rules right now because this is increasing quickly. It’s been increasing in popularity in the last few years. In 2016, there was 1.4 billion in funds given away this way. In 2018, 3.7 billion. It’s getting more and more popular. It’s often leveraged for software development because it can move a bit faster along with software or it could be organized as a consortia. We’ll get into that in a second. Some examples of this are DIUx, which is a partnership between Silicon Valley and the DoD.
They try and give out awards in less than 60 days. Another one is MTEC or the Medical Technology Enterprise Consortium. Basically, you as an investigator or organization can join this consortium and then have only people in that consortium get access to certain solicitations through an OTA. This is going to be changing rapidly. I encourage you to check it out. They have a lot of guidance documents on OTAs and what they mean. Definitely, don’t forget about this, especially for startup founders or small businesses. All right. That was all the funding solicitations and how they’re going to give you the money. I mainly just want you to understand the different ones that are out there so you can weigh the pros and cons of each and have a strategy for seeking out funding.
One of the main takeaways is, just realize there are a lot more opportunities than just the SBIRs. Don’t be afraid to look beyond that and definitely check out the BAA and the OTAs that are coming up. More information for you and this is a lot similar from last week. Some of the federal official documents don’t read these, but they’re there for reference for the Federal Acquisitions Regulations, the DoD grants, and then also things on acquisitions and their requirements, and how they classify their unmet needs in the military. If you want just more of an educational overview of things, even people at the DoD are constantly trying to learn the rules for acquisitions, so there’s the Defense Acquisition University.
There’s some guidelines for medical products. If you’re interested in medical products in the Program Announcements, check out the CDMRP website and also eBRAP, where all their forms are. The contracting office there at the medical products development also gives you a nice overview of the process for contracts versus grants. Then a bunch of opportunities to actually connect with DoD staff. You can submit for new product ideas to the website. There are industry partnership days, which I definitely encourage, certain conferences. Then getting into those consortiums is a good way to get your name out there. I look forward to any questions.
Thank you, Carly. There’s tons of questions actually coming through in the chat box and through Q&A. Sheldon wanted you to explain more in regards to the risk analysis matrix using TRLs a bit more, that you shared last week. You had a little quad thing.
There’s the quad chart. Risk analysis matrix is a whole new acquisitions term we didn’t have a chance to cover last time, but they will ask you when you’re trying to describe your TRLs, how you’re going to move the TRLs forward. Some Program Portfolio Managers or Research Area Directors are going to ask you for a risk matrix. It didn’t come up that often. For the risk level at different stages, I would go to the DAU website for that. Honestly, at the research level we were at, it was only offices that had someone coming from a program office, which is farther down on the acquisitions life cycle. If you get someone who likes to geek out on an acquisitions life cycle, they might ask you about that. A lot of people didn’t in the research world, but I would go to the DAU website on risk matrix analysis.
Great. Now, “In regards to statistics you presented, regarding the startups actually getting the DoD grants versus academic institutes, if you’re a small startup, would you recommend having the institute drive the application instead of the startup?”
It depends on what you’re looking at. You’re saying it’s a spinout from an academic university to a startup that’s leveraging the technology from academic university?
If you’re leveraging technology from an academic university, I mean it just changes. The award goes to the institutes and it depends what you’re applying to. You might have a better chance to STTRs. If you’re looking to commercialize something, look at the FARs and other … It just depends what work you want to do and who gets to get the money, which sounds more of an issue between the university and the spinout company than with the DoD. Is it better suited for the spinout company to do the work or the university to do the work? I don’t think one solicitation is necessarily better than others.
Got it. We shouldn’t be skewed by just based on the statistics that you presented, based on who the DoD awards the grants to?
I’m not sure what statistics you’re referring to, but you will have more chances through SBIRs if you do it as a spinout company, obviously. Sometimes the SBIR awards as opposed to a university, I feel like more chances to get government funding as a small spinout, a small company than as a university competing for R01s or something. That opens up the SBIR pool for you, but each different solicitation is going to have a different competition level, based on the topic area. There’s a lot of different strategy going into that.
Great. Now, “If you’re an engineering service or an additive manufacturing service that can be utilized by the grantee, can you get involved in an assistance grant?”
As a commercial vendor or a subcontractor, yes. Myself, as a startup founder, I would be the one driving the application and getting awarded, but then I can hire service vendors to do a portion of the work. Each different solicitation is going to have different rules for it. It depends if you’re a subcontractor doing more intellectual research work versus just commercial services and how they structure it. The SBIRs, for example, only a certain percentage can go to work outside of the actual company receiving the awards. That’s more … You’d have to find that group that’s actually applying for the funding and work that out with them.
Now, “Can you speak a little more in regards to the difference between a CDMRP and a PRMRP?”
Let me get my acronyms straight. CDMRP is the whole Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program. PRMRP, I believe is the Peer Reviewed Medical Research Program, which is within CDMRP, so I believe it’s one of their portfolios within there, as long as I’m getting the acronym straight. There are a bunch of portfolios within CDMRP and just research topic areas.
Got it. “Our company is thinking about applying for a CDMRP grant for a clinical trial. Is there a resource for successfully reviewed applications and pre-applications that can serve as a guide?”
I mean the CDMRP website is great. I think it’s pretty well laid out as opposed to some other research programs. They have a PDF there on the overview for funded investigators to understand the whole process. That’s very helpful to look for. They’re generally very useful and happy to talk to you about that process, but their website is actually pretty good in looking at that over. I’m trying to think of any regular events for getting more feedback from them, but I’d have to think about that. I can’t think of that top of my head.
Now, “Are there any advantages for disabled veteran-owned small businesses?”
Yes, though I am forgetting the exact specifics, but generally, when you’re filling out those forms, when I submitted, there’s boxes you check when you’re filling out. Say SBIRs or other solicitations and you’re answering to them, there’ll be a box to check, to say if you’re a minority or woman-owned or veteran-owned. That is in there. I’m not sure exactly how that changes your score. I don’t remember specifically, but that is factored in.
“Are OTAs widely used within DoD?”
Increasingly, some are more savvy than others. As I showed, there’s going to be some groups who are suddenly loving them and using them a lot more. We had just started getting into them, but it was all still very new. I think it is increasing and everyone’s figuring out the rules right now.
Moses has a question. “I have a patent innovative technology with a fully functioning prototype that’s ready for licensure. How can I proceed?”
Well, the question is if you just want to license it versus looking to do research on it. If you’re looking to just license it and not get funding for research, that’s a very different question than what we’re talking about today, which is more getting money from the government to do a specific research question. I would talk to the military industry partnership days. You might want to be talking more to an end-user group or the program office. Most of the time, the gaps we’re trying to fund are dictated by the program office who sees the end product get there. They let us know when there’s gaps in research and technology, and then we seek out to fund those gaps in research and technology. If you’ve already solved that issue and have that technology ready to go, it’s more of that program office you want to be talking to then the research groups.
“Can you clarify, what is the DAU website?”
Defense Acquisitions University is just an educational website for DoD acquisitions. Most of it is coursework that’s only for DoD employees, but there are a lot of guidebooks and other PDFs open for the public if you want an overview over how the DoD funds research and the different types of contract mechanisms.
Now, “For the CDMRP initiated grant calls,” this is actually a two-part question, “In view of spending the ‘so-called money’ for DoD, is it an advantage or disadvantage to propose two years’ worth of work when the grant calls allows a max of three years with the same total budget?”
You’re suggesting to do two years’ worth of work versus three? I can’t think if they would look down on that at all. I mean they’re not so much worried about the time because so often, most of the case we’ll do an extension without funds at the end of the award anyways, so most of the three years wound up being four. Especially if you’re doing any human subject recruitment, we just expect it to take longer than you plan. However, for me, when I’m making a budget for my own grants, it more comes down to how do I budget for personnel over the two versus three years? I think, talk to the program staff. I don’t think you’d be damned for doing shorter than the recommended time, but they might roll their eyes and be like, “It’s going to take longer.” Do you really have the money and budget to do this if you’re only budgeting two years? Because you won’t get any more money later.
Now, “Is this accurate? I’ve heard that CDMRP Application Review Committees include a patient or patient advocate.”
Yeah. One big thing for CDMRP is a consumer advocate. On their peer review, they have someone from that. Say the health topic area, the disease community, they’re very proud of their consumer advocates there and they have that detailed on their CDMRP website.
Now, “How do the funding lines differ between PAs, BAAs, and SBIRs?”
It depends on that solicitation. The Program Announcements are going to have a set budget. You can pull a bunch of big samples on Grants.gov or CDMRP. It just depends on that portfolio, how much money they have, and how much they can put out for each award. They will tell you how much your award can be. The Broad Agency Announcement, again, doesn’t have any set budget limits, so you’re the one proposing that and it just depends how much extra money they have around. The SBIR is dictated across the federal agencies and I believe it’s still 150 for Phase I, for DoD. Basically, the SBIRs are dictated by when you’re going to trigger certain auditing rules. Phase I is usually, say for NSF right now, it’s 250,000 for Phase I. DoD might be 150 and then you sometimes get exemptions to pass that, but it’s to keep you below an auditing threshold.
Now, “If we have an NIH SBIR award, how do we initiate communication to try for a sole source justification?”
That, I am less familiar with because again, we were more funding the research, but I would look at the link I put on there, doing business with the DoD because at that point again, you’re talking more to the program executive offices and not the research groups. You are more, “I am a vendor to the military and there’s an extra bonus that you can sole source to me.” That’s beyond the research community. That’s more talking to the program executive offices and how to do business with DoD.
Now, “In your opinion, are SBIRs more competitive than other announcements?”
It just depends on the announcement. I think if you’re a small business and a founder, more people know about the SBIRs. I don’t know the numbers on the top of my head, but we’re going to have more, say university applicants to the Program Announcements and more small businesses to SBIRs. I think just more people know about the SBIRs. I often encourage people, I think you’ll get more stringent review criteria there. Whereas the BAA, I mean there’s still a peer review, but if they just like your proposal and it’s a good fit for them, then they can control that.
Now, “Is there a place where folks can find a schedule of military industry partnership days?”
I don’t know about DoD-wide, unfortunately. I don’t know if I put a link on the resources for USAMRDC’s list of them, but they’ll list the dates on there. I don’t know of one DoD-wide because it’s such a big organization.
Where do you find the right point of contact? Is it just a new tech that might not have specific funding award yet?
If you have technology or-
Yeah, you have technology. How do you find that right point of contact when there isn’t a specific funding announcement yet?
If you’re looking to still get funding for research on that and not looking to be a vendor for your product to the military, if you’re looking for research funding to continue development of it, I would look at … If it’s for medical products, say, we have listed those medical portfolios and the point of contacts at USAMRDC, honestly, the CDMRP website is still a good place to go for that because that lists all the portfolios and links to there. Then there will be someone, a Portfolio Manager for each of those and they’re the ones that are interacting with the scientists and investigators a lot.
Great. We had a few questions in regards to folks wanting to engage with you directly or through ScienceDocs. How would they do that?
You can go to sciencedocs.com, and there’s a link there for more information and how to get quotes.
Great. For folks that are participating, you’ll be getting a post-event survey email that we’ll have the recording of this webinar and the slides, and the contact information for ScienceDocs if you want to get in contact. It’s about 1:55 right now. We want to make sure we end on time. On behalf of ScienceDocs and ULP, I want to thank everyone for joining us today. Any final thoughts, Carly, before we talk about our next event?
No. I just really encourage you guys all to … There’s a lot of valuable information online, so if you’re in medical products, start looking there, but there’s a lot of publications out there for OTAs and other resources.
Great. Fantastic. Thank you so much for your insight today and just always being so gracious to share all your knowledge. We really appreciate it. Our upcoming next event with ScienceDocs is Pitfalls, Strategies, and Opportunities in Vaccine Manufacturing, featuring Dr. Eric Jacobson. That will be on Tuesday, June 23rd, 2020, at 1:00 PM. Please RSVP right on our website. In the meantime, please reach out to us if we can assist you or support you in any way. Thank you for joining us and stay well. Bye-bye now.