• The annual Program Administrators’ bus tour. An annual swing through several “under-represented” states, with stops at numerous cities along the way. Participants always include the NIH Program Coordinators.

  • Web sites and listservs. NIH maintains an extensive Web site1 containing application information and other support information. A number of explanatory presentations are available online. NIH also allows users to sign up for a news list-serve.

  • Agency publications and presentations. NIH does not appear to use print publications to any significant degree to publicize SBIR (except as NIH events are reported in other publications, for example at the state level). NIH does use electronic publications, such as the NIH Guide for Grants and Contracts, to publicize Funding Opportunity Announcements as well as the Commercialization Assistance Program and the Niche Assessment Program.

  • Demographic-focused outreach. NIH regularly participates in several conferences designed to reach specific demographics.

Overall, there are currently no metrics in place to determine whether the above three objectives have been met in the past or are now being met. Interviews at NIH suggest that the staff believes more outreach is required, and that raising the size of awards has been the most important recent NIH outreach initiative. Some staff members suggest that bigger awards attract better applicants.

NIH has strongly supported the SWIFT bus tour, and the NIH SBIR/STTR Program Coordinator has gone on all recent tours personally.2 Staff members claim to have noticed a spike in applications from visited states and regions, but have no empirical evidence matching bus tours with increased applications.

A review of IC Web sites also indicates that they provide a range of online information from very basic to “fancy bells and whistles.” The Institutes and Centers (ICs) vary greatly in their resources and talent to launch attractive and informative Web pages. It could therefore be helpful if the NIH SBIR/STTR Program Office could develop a standard information package that the Institutes could then adapt for their particular programs, e.g., to display their own particular list of initiatives.

5.3.1
Attracting the Best Applicants

The NIH staff notes that average scores for SBIR awards have trended upward (NIH scores range from 100 (best) to 500 (worst), so an upward trend indicates relatively weaker applications.) Some staff members have stated that the

1

Accessed at: <http://www.nih.gov/grants/funding/sbir.htm>.

2

SWIFT is a multistate bus tour periodically undertaken by SBIR Program Administrators from different agencies to fuel technology growth and development across different regions by promoting awareness of the SBIR programs.



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