TEDCO: Helping Businesses Craft Strong, Responsive, and Fundable Federal Grant Proposals
Kim Mozingo

This month, the Small Business Administration (SBA) celebrates National SBIR Week, providing us with a great opportunity to reflect on the many benefits we are afforded in Maryland. 

Not only does Maryland host twice as many Federal Laboratories as any other state, but we are also a leader in receiving federal research and development (R&D) dollars. In 2019, Maryland was 2nd in the nation in federal R&D spending, receiving $16.9B. More than half was provided by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) followed by the Department of Defense (DoD), NASA, the Department of Commerce, the National Science Foundation (NSF), USDA and others (source). 

The SBIR program was created to encourage businesses to engage in high growth R&D. While a highly competitive program, it can be a great source of non-dilutive funding for the right businesses that write compelling proposals. Yet, writing a proposal is not for the faint of heart. Responding to an SBIR funding announcement or solicitation can take over 150 hours of labor. Dr. Carol Dahl, Executive Director of the Lemelson Foundation and former federal agency proposal reviewer spoke to SBA partners in March 2021. Speaking about the necessity for businesses to learn the skill of proposal writing, Dr. Dahl stated, “There’s nothing more limiting than not knowing how to write a good grant application and so much of it is, ‘How do you convey your ideas effectively?’ We often, as reviewers, … see a promising idea but the way it’s presented really kills the opportunity.” 

Writing proposals in response to federal agency Requests for Proposals (RFP), Notice of Funding Opportunities (NOFO), or similar solicitations is a critical skill for businesses to acquire. With grant funding from the SBA, TEDCO’s Federal Programs have worked with more than 70 Maryland companies through their SBIR/STTR Proposal Lab Workshop in partnership with OST Global Solutions’ GovCon Incubator and the Maryland Small Business Development Center (SBDC). The Proposal Lab targets Small Disadvantaged Businesses (SDB), women-owned, and rural businesses. From its inception in 2018 to the present, we have increased Small Disadvantaged Business’s participation rate from 56% to 70% of our proposal cohort, with women-owned businesses comprising 75% of the FY2021 cohort. 

The overall purpose of the Proposal Lab is to help SDB—women-owned and rural companies –win more Phase I SBIR/STTR awards. To date, we have more than doubled the national average Phase I award success rate which, for the NSF, was 11%. The overall win rate for companies that complete the Proposal Lab Workshop is 39%. The news is even better for Women-owned Small Businesses (WOSB) where we increased the average win rate to 60%, far exceeding the 13.3% WOSB national average according to the National Women’s Business Council.

Our focus in the proposal lab is helping businesses craft strong, responsive, fundable NSF and other agency proposals. Toward that end, we also provide participants with recognized experts to review and advise on their proposals in two separate review rounds prior to submission. 

Companies wishing to learn more about the SBIR/STTR program can tune in to the virtual 2021 National SBIR Week, where attendees will have the opportunity to hear directly from the participating federal agency program managers that administer over 7,000 new awards annually and to meet virtually one-on-one with program decision makers (https://www.sbirroadtour.com/). To learn more about how TEDCO’s Federal Programs supports Maryland businesses, visit https://www.tedcomd.com/funding/federal-tech-transfer or contact Kim Mozingo at kmozingo@tedco.md.