NIH SBIR Grant Help to Score Above Payline and Win the Money You Need

 Are you struggling with how to convince NIH SBIR grant reviewers you should be funded? You don’t have to work alone and isolated.
Tom Hollon, PhD

You can get help in presenting your ideas persuasively so you’ll be confident the SBIR research plan you submit to NIH is targeted for a high score in the winner’s circle, not dead on arrival because you didn’t know the finer points of grantwriting.

Hi, I’m Tom Hollon. Since 2003 I’ve worked with scientists who need grants so they can get back to doing the research they love. I’ve helped clients win more than $19 million in grants and contracts.

I can help you highlight why the product you’ll develop with the help of SBIR funding is significant and innovative, and remove common SBIR grant-killer mistakes so the grant reviewers never see them. They can’t kill your grant for mistakes they can’t find.

When you make it easy for reviewers to understand why your product will make an exciting difference, and when you avoid research plan mistakes that will make reviewers doubt your ability to succeed, your grant score can only go one place — up. You’ll have a far better chance to score above payline.

Grantsmanship vs. Grantsmanshipwreck

The service I offer is about getting results — winning SBIR grant money — through grantsmanship, which means making your SBIR grant application more competitive by considering it from the reviewers’ perspective. Not to try to put yourself in their shoes, as if they’ll automatically find your words persuasive simply because you do, is grantsmanshipwreck.

Take a moment with me to consider what NIH’s SBIR grant review process means for grantsmanship.

NIH instructs grant reviewers to use a 9-point scale to score your research plan 6 things — Overall Impact, Significance, Innovation, Approach, Investigators, and Environment — according to the balance of their strengths and weaknesses (see the table). (Note: Depending upon the type of SBIR grant and project reviewers may have additional evaluation criteria; but these 6 are constant.)

Strengths are those things in your SBIR research plan that build reviewers’ confidence your product is important and your SBIR research project will succeed.

Weaknesses do the opposite, reducing reviewers’ confidence in your product’s importance or your research project’s likelihood of success.

To get a winning score from reviewers, you have to convincingly explain your Phase I or II research strategy for advancing your product’s development. You must be concise, comprehensive and compelling, all at the same time. No wonder SBIR grants are so hard to write!

So how can you be sure, when you’ve worked and slaved on your research plan until your eyes glaze over, that it’s ready to win top scores, with its weaknesses removed and its strengths clear and compelling? How can you be sure it gets straight to the point about why your product meets an important need, why it’s innovative, and why the odds are stacked for your research to succeed?

The best way I know is to get grantsmanship help from someone who can view your application from a fresh perspective to help you spot opportunities to improve it that you’ve overlooked.

This should be someone with the ability to comb through your SBIR product research plan page by page and line by line, looking at it as reviewers will look at it, hunting for every way possible to make your strengths clearer and easier for reviewers to notice, and every weakness that can be corrected before deadline.

I can do this for you.

Here’s What I Offer:

If you’re in the last month before submission, I offer a two-part service help you maximize your SBIR score and your chance to win funding.

Part 1: Analysis of Strengths and Weaknesses

I will analyze your SBIR product research plan to identify:

  • how to make it more persuasive so reviewers give you a high score; and
  • where there are grant-killer weaknesses we can get rid of before the submission deadline arrives and it’s too late

I’ll put your SBIR research plan under the microscope, looking for ways to present each part more persuasively: title, abstract, specific aims, significance, innovation, preliminary data, approach, biosketch, figures and tables, the works. If you’re reapplying, I’ll study your Summary Statement from last time and examine your Introduction for everything we can do to make it as persuasive as possible.

If you’re applying for a Phase II grant, I’ll give your Commercialization Plan the same line-by-line scrutiny.  If you have extra sections such as human subjects protection or a co-PI section, I’ll do the same with those too.

Part 2: Fine-Tuning to Maximize Your Score

I’ll work with you to fine-tune how your SBIR product research plan presents your ideas so your strengths are clearly expressed and placed where they’ll be noticed early

Then we’ll work on eliminating weaknesses, because you can’t be penalized for weaknesses reviewers can’t find

The result will be a SBIR product research plan with your best chance to score above payline — strengths honed and gleaming, weaknesses weeded out — the very best you have to offer.

Who Can this Service Help?

  • Researchers better at research than writing, who worry their words don’t do their ideas justice
  • Scientists concerned their SBIR product research plan isn’t as strong as it could be, but not sure what to do about it
  • Scientists with no colleague willing to spend hours combing their research plan page by page and line by line for every possible weakness
  • Researchers trying to shoehorn SBIR research plans into NIH’s short page limits
  • Successful SBIR grant winners who want every possible edge against the competition
  • Researchers for whom English is a second language

Things you get with this service include:

  • Editing more persuasion into fewer words. I can almost always reduce a SBIR research plan by 5 – 10% without sacrificing accuracy, so fitting the page limit becomes easier. It can be like getting an extra half-page or page to explain your ideas.
  • Highlighting significance and originality. The stress and pressure of grant writing can make it hard to find words to do your product and research plan justice. I can help you state the significance and novelty of your product strongly and clearly.
  • Removing research plan weaknesses.  By bringing fresh eyes and knowledge of the review process to your research plan, I can help you find and remove weaknesses reviewers will otherwise use to try to kill your grant.
  • Summary Statement analysis. I can help you read between the lines to understand what reviewers really mean so you can resubmit and win.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. How will I know your service is working?

A. You’ll know very easily, because you’ll be able to compare your SBIR product research plan before you work with me and after.  And if you don’t feel my help is making your research plan more persuasive, you don’t owe anything (see my Money-back Guarantee below).

Q. Do you have a scientific background?

A. I have a PhD in microbiology and did postdoctoral work at the Pasteur Institute in Paris and at NIH in Bethesda. In 1998 I started a science magazine for the American Chemical Society and I’ve been a writer, editor, and consultant ever since.

I’ve helped clients with grants and contract proposals since 2003. My first success was writing a proteomics grant for a client that reviewers ranked in the top 15 out of 120 applications. It was funded for $2 million.

What this means is I will understand and sympathize with the challenges you face. You can talk to me scientist-to-scientist about your research, grant application, and goals.

Q. How can you help me emphasize strengths and remove weaknesses if you’re not a specialist in my field?

A. In helping scientists emphasize the importance and novelty of their research, I usually draw on my experience as science magazine editor and journalist more than my research experience in molecular biology. I have years of practice at giving important words an even stronger impact on reviewers by rephrasing them or moving them to a different part of the research plan.

As for fixing weaknesses, I probably will not be qualified to judge the technical details of your experiments, so we’ll discuss finding people who are qualified to do that for you. (NOTE: If you have an interdisciplinary SBIR project, you need someone of genuine expertise for the discipline you’re weakest in; otherwise a technical mistake you cannot catch on your own may ruin your grant with an Approach section score of 4 or worse.)

Beyond this, there are many common flaws in research plans regardless of discipline. Here I can definitely help you find and fix mistakes in how you present your ideas.

For example, if you overlook describing key controls, or alternative experimental approaches, or explaining how you can interpret your data critically, or what you’ll do if a hypothesis fails, I’ll probably notice right away and warn you.

Q. Do you help with grants other than NIH SBIRs?

A. I advise technology companies on all sorts of grants and contract proposals; for example, NIH STTRs and NSF SBIRs, and RFP contract proposals to NIH and other federal research and healthcare agencies.

You can ask me about my availability by email. Generally, I’ll be booked well in advance of your grant deadline, so ask early.

Invitation to a Free SBIR Grant Strategy Session

To consider getting help winning SBIR funding, let me offer you a free one-hour NIH SBIR Grant Strategy Session to discuss your needs and whether my help is right for you.

To set up a free strategy session, click on the button at the bottom, which will take you to an appointment page with some questions about your SBIR funding challenges.

Your answers will help me help you in two ways.

  1. Your answers will help me understand the specifics of what we should discuss; that way, we’ll spend less time speaking generally and more time on exactly how you can be helped.
  2. Your answers will help me understand whether we may be a good fit to work together. If we aren’t, I’ll let you know by email and explain my reasoning.

What happens after the Strategy Session? At the end of the session, if you feel my help is right for you, then we can discuss the price, my guarantee, and when to begin working together. You can then hire me immediately or think it over for a day or two. Whatever feels right for you.

Money-Back Guarantee

I offer this guarantee so trying my services places the risk on my shoulders rather than yours:

If you do not believe the advice you’re receiving from me is making your SBIR product research plan more persuasive, simply agree not to use the advice you’ve been given when you submit your application to NIH and I’ll send your money back in full. 

So, do you want to win more SBIR Grants?

Then take the first step at no obligation: Click here to get a FREE NIH SBIR Grant Strategy Session.

May you always score above payline,

Tom Hollon, PhD



Leave a Comment