The required Project Pitch allows startups and small businesses to get quick feedback at the start of their application for Phase I funding from America’s Seed Fund.
Startups or entrepreneurs who submit a three-page Project Pitch* will know within three weeks if they meet the program’s objectives to support innovative technologies that show promise of commercial and/or societal impact and involve a level of technical risk. (the ending date for this opportunity will end on June 4, 2020.
If your Project Pitch is a good fit for the program, you will receive an official invitation from NSF to submit a full proposal. If you’re not invited to submit, you’ll be told why your project is not appropriate for the program.
Along with your company information, you’ll have to outline four key elements in your Project Pitch:
1. The Technology Innovation. (Up to 500 words)
Describe the technical innovation that would be the focus of a Phase I project, including a brief discussion of the origins of the innovation as well as an explanation as to why it meets the program’s mandate to focus on supporting research and development (R&D - see below) of unproven, high-impact innovations.
2. The Technical Objectives and Challenges. (Up to 500 words)
Describe the R&D or technical work to be done in a Phase I project, including a discussion of how and why the proposed work will help prove that the product or service is technically feasible and/or significantly reduce technical risk. Discuss how, ultimately, this work could contribute to making the new product, service, or process commercially viable and impactful. This section should also convey that the proposed work meets the definition of R&D, rather than straightforward engineering or incremental product development tasks.
3. The Market Opportunity. (Up to 250 words)
Describe the customer profile and pain point(s) that will be the near-term commercial focus related to this technical project.
4. The Company and Team. (Up to 250 words)
Describe the background and current status of the applicant small business, including key team members who will lead the technical and/or commercial efforts discussed in this Project Pitch.
What is R&D
America’s Seed Fund requires that small businesses use the funding they receive in Phase I and Phase II for R&D. The goal of the small business’s project should be to determine the scientific and technical feasibility of a new concept or innovation that could be developed into new products, processes, or services. Research and development supported by the program can be:
A systematic, intensive study directed toward greater knowledge or understanding of the subject studied;
A systematic study directed specifically toward applying new knowledge to meet a recognized need; or
A systematic application of knowledge toward the production of useful materials, devices, and systems or methods, including design, development, and improvement of prototypes and new processes to meet specific requirements.
When you decide to apply for funding, you’ll submit a Project Pitch. You’ll hear back within three weeks if your idea is a good fit for the program. Once you’re invited, you’ll submit a Phase I proposal for up to $256,000, which will cover at least six (and up to 12) months of work. You’ll find out whether your proposal was accepted or declined within four to six months of the proposal deadline.
If you’re awarded Phase I funding, you’ll be expected to:
Explore product-market fit
Determine your technology’s feasibility
Design and test prototypes
Identify any relevant legal or regulatory issues
Develop a plan to scale and market your technology
Applicants often ask whether they can update their research plan during the course of a project, and the answer is yes — with a few stipulations. While it’s OK for you to update your business model or R&D strategy a bit (this is bound to happen), you can’t entirely shift the focus of your work unless you have evidence demonstrating why it makes sense.
If your technology needs more development — and if you’ve met all the Phase I requirements — you can apply for more funding. Phase II awardees receive up to $1,000,000 over two years.
To help current Phase II awardees speed the commercialization of their technology, NSF may match 50 cents on every $1 of qualifying revenues or third-party investment (minimum match $50,000 and maximum $500,000) through a Phase IIB supplement.
Find out if your company’s technology innovation is a good fit for America’s Seed Fund and request assistance from BAM Consulting.
Email us to assist in your development and submittal of your Project Pitch or to preview the requirements.