This article is an addendum to our SBIR/STTR grants guide. Here, we discuss the Principal Investigator and how best to assign the position.
What Are Principal Investigators & What Do They Do?
Once you’ve familiarized yourself with the intricacies of the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs, you’ll begin noticing that a crucial role must be filled in both proposals. This role is the Principal Investigator (PI), a designated individual who serves as a technical lead for the project. Since they bear primary responsibility for the research, application, and presentation of the materials, the PI must be intimately familiar with the project. The assigned PI is expected to be competent to lead the project. They are also expected to have the skillset required to understand the team’s efforts fully.
Several qualities to look out for when assigning your PI are:
- Prior experience leading intensive research projects
- Technical competency in the given field of study
- A degree of familiarity with SBIR/STTR guidelines and compliances, as discussed in our previous guide
The reviewers of your proposal will expect a justification as to why your Principal Investigator was chosen. These qualities will give your proposal a quick and easy leg-up in the early review stages.
Differences Between SBIR & STTR Principal Investigators
Additionally, depending on whether you are applying for an SBIR or STTR grant, there are different qualifications your PI must possess. Under most circumstances, the PI for an SBIR proposal must be primarily employed by the small business submitting the proposal. This usually means that they cannot be a full-time employee for another company and/or cannot work more than 19.6 hours elsewhere. Some of these stipulations vary depending on whether you apply for a Department of Defense SBIR or one from another federal agency.
Because the STTR grant partners a business with a research institution, the PI can work for either entity. The same full-time employment restrictions usually apply to STTR Principal Investigators as well. Still, several agencies require a minimum number of hours to be worked by the PI as an additional stipulation. For example, a standard metric may be that the PI contributes 10% of the research or one full month of work.
SBIR/STTR solicitations often vary in minor ways, so proposals must consider the requirements clarified in these solicitations before assigning their PI.
To wrap up, the assignment of your Principal Investigator must be a high priority for you and your team. The position dictates how the project is run and perceived by the review team to a vast extent. Your PI will be your chosen delegate to confer between your team and the principal point of contact.
As Vertx Partners continues serving as a resource and consultant for businesses interested in applying for SBIR/STTR grants, we’ll continue to advise in appointing a proper PI for your solicitation. Reach out to Vertx today to begin the process toward your first contract with the federal government.
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