Why to recruit transition partners and how that improves your hit rate
by Bob Fielder
Why team with a large prime contractor?
The goal of every SBIR project should be to develop a commercial product. In cases where the DOD or NASA are the intended customers, then teaming with a DOD/NASA prime can facilitate the transition of your technology into relevant platforms. In these cases, teaming with a prime contractor enables you to develop a highly-focused and credible transition plan for your technology. This will significantly increase your chances for winning Phase I, Phase II, and Phase III SBIR awards, as well as streamlining the commercialization process.
How does this help with winning more awards?
Many SBIR topics seek solutions to capability gaps in one or more specific federal applications and programs. Therefore, the technology which results from a successful Phase I/II SBIR must be well positioned to transition into a product and to meet specific needs in the target programs during Phase III. For this to happen, a small business needs the following:
- A firm understanding of the requirements for integrating their technology into the federal program or application
- The capability to demonstrate that their technology meets these requirements
- A way to actually sell their technology to the government
Each of these needs can be met by working with the prime contractor on the federal program targeted by the SBIR. Therefore, we suggest small businesses engage the relevant prime contractor regarding their project prior to Phase I.
What can I expect from a prime contractor?
Most often, small businesses are developing component or sub-system level technologies, and a key to commercialization and technology transfer is the ability to integrate with higher-level systems. Therefore, when teaming with a prime, you should seek and expect:
- Subject matter expertise to specify performance requirements, operational conditions, and system integration requirements
- Specifications regarding test and demonstration requirements
- Specialized test facilities and validation test platforms
Some of the primes prefer to be involved as a paid subcontractor, and be integrated with the technology development process. Others will take a more hands off approach, provide some informal guidance, etc. Others may offer in-kind support by providing "piggy-back" testing, etc. Each one is different, and you'll need to tailor the scope and budget for their involvement to fit your specific project.
How do I find the right prime to work with?
Many times, the appropriate prime can be determined by talking to the TPOC (see our previous article on this topic here), or simply doing some homework on your topic. Most primes have dedicated personnel for interacting with small businesses pursing SBIRs. Some, including Lockheed Martin, Boeing and Raytheon regularly publish a list of topics that are of interest to them, including contact information. They encourage small businesses to contact them to discuss working together. We maintain a list of specific contacts within the primes that are interested in working with small businesses on SBIR projects.