IEEE FOOTHILL COMPLETES SBIR PROCESS REVIEW
|April 9, 2014||Posted by COMauthor under CN, COMSOC, CS, EDCAS, EmpNet, MTT/APS, PES, Region 6||
Summary of IEEE Foothill Section PACE Project: SBIR PROCESS REVIEW
Three meeting were held by the IEEE Foothill Section to explore the SBIR Process for its members. This was held as part of the regular FENet (Foothill Employment Network) schedule. These meetings are part of the natural set of topics that encompass the interests of those engineers who attend the FENet meetings. As alternatives to finding a more suitable job within an existing company, many engineers are interested in exploring the opportunities of becoming a technical consultant, starting a small company, or bidding on a small, short term contract via the SBIR process.
(1) First SBIR Meeting held on Tuesday, January 28, 2014
After making plans for the topics to be scheduled and covered in the latter two sessions, the group began their familiarization tour of the SBIR process by going to the DOD SBIR websites. Here we:
Reviewed the five (5) steps to get started;
Reviewed the overall list of topics;
Reviewed in detail two topics that were identified via a search on the keyword “Imagery”. This word was selected since several attendees had some familiarity with technical sensors for “Imagery” collection and manipulation;
Did a quick parsing of all topics listed in the most recent DOD SBIR 14.1. This showed the depth of the technical proposal requests as there are about 300 detailed “possible project” descriptions;
Reviewed the SBIR Listserver process set up so that an engineer could have information sent out automatically;
Reviewed the schedule for the upcoming SBIR 14.1 and 14.2 proposal periods;
Conducted our own internal Q&A on the procedure as stated on the website;
Began a group discussion on “Brainstorming and Gamesmanship”; what does the actual statement of the overall problem mean? What is the technical state-of-the-art? How does one ascertain what that is? What do we know that could advance that state-of-the-art? How could we structure a 6 month Phase one SBIR project that could demonstrate the improvement in the state-of-the-art? What should be deferred until a Phase Two proposal? Can we envision how this would lead to a Phase Three effort? Going back to the problem descriptions containing the keyword “Imagery” helped move this discussion along.
(2) Second SBIR Meeting held on Tuesday, February 25, 2014
This meeting took place after setting up a plan for a review meeting with an IEEE Engineer in Orange County IEEE Section who has won several SBIR grants, and is currently in the earlier stages of executing a Phase 2 SBIR. A set of topics was prepared for this interview, and mutually agreed upon. The emphasis was on obtaining a current practitioner’s thoughts about his experiences in planning, preparing, and executing a small SBIR program as part of a small company’s efforts.
These interview topics were:
(A) Reviewing government lists, by awarding agency, how do you determine what may be a pressing need that the agency wants addressed? Some projects may indicate a nice-to-have capability, but some may point to an urgent need for that agency? Some may be blue sky listed agency wants, where they, the listing government agency, have no reasonable expectation that a worthwhile SBIR proposal could be submitted. There is a difference between a long-term goal, and something of a shorter term and limited nature that can easily morph into a requirement.
(B) How did you mix or match the skill set of your technical partner(s) who would work on the SBIR proposal? How did you, as a team, decide on a definite SBIR proposal work statement that would be submitted? In general, how do you form a functioning team for a short 6-month duration SBIR?
(C) What were your experiences with the SBIR proposals that you were awarded and worked on? Topics such as schedule? time constraints? financial plans? execution of work? governmental regulations, how did you address these? What do you find to be the Best Practices?
Our SBIR Review meeting on February 25, 2014 went through these three generic topics in depth. A detailed report from our earlier interview with the Orange County IEEE Section member was submitted and reviewed by the group. Lively discussions were held, indeed, with a lot of light being shed on the topic.
(3) Third SBIR meeting held on Tuesday March 25, 2014
The final formal “SBIR” meeting was directed at some SBIR related projects undertaken by our members. One project proposal, examining the use of microprocessers with built in algorithmic computations and concurrent wireless communication to monitor the health and functioning of shipboard equipment on board a naval vessel, had been submitted earlier for SBIR consideration. It had not received an award. In addition, no referees report was received, as per the standard expectations and rules for the SBIR program. So, we in the IEEE Foothill Section started a review of the proposal, and will attempt to provide the constructive criticism to the lead investigator. In time, an improved and modified part of this proposal will be submitted for another SBIR project. After all, data can be collected, but even the Biggest Data collection needs refinement and interpretation. This was part of this proposal’s listed task. We also note that that is the Fundamental Problem with Big Data. OK, all this data has been collected, now what do we do?
A second project proposed is related to Random Numbers, and awaits further technical development on the part of the lead investigator, and his initial reporting.
A third project discussed by the assembled group involved a Request of Interest/ Request of Qualification from a NASA site regarding proposed concepts for a sensor packaging structure to be set up on an environment such as planet Venus: corrosive environment, high temperatures, and electromagnetic fields to be encountered. Again, the group looked at some very preliminary technical task work breakdowns.
One element key to these reviews of SBIR proposals that the group emphasized is the need to adopt a systems engineering approach right from the start. The entire SBIR proposal must fit into a coordinated package with varying technical elements as well as programmatic and financial plans, and show that a problem from the listing SBIR governmental agency can be solved. A second element key was that the group realized that technical teams need to be formed right from the start. The proper technical skills mix from the engineering participants need to be identified. These are the messages that came clear this evening, as we wrapped up our short IEEE Foothill Section SBIR process review.
The IEEE Foothill Section thanks the Region 6 PACE committee for their partial funding support of this SBIR Process Review.