Tips for Writing Your SBIR/STTR Work Plan

October 22nd, 2014 by Rebecca Todd

Although all Small Business Innovation Research/Small Business Technology Transfer agencies have slightly different requirements for proposal content and layout, one constant among them is the project work plan.

The work plan is the full, task-level description of how your team will prove feasibility of your project idea. Since all Phase I applicants are in the concept stage of high-risk, high-payoff product and service development, the work plan needs to demonstrate to agency reviewers that the team has fully considered all of the resources associated with each task as well as the measurable outcomes that indicate early-stage success.

One way to get started developing the work plan is to brainstorm three to five research questions that your project team could conceivably answer in Phase I with an average budget of $150,000 and a project performance period of six months. Refer to my previous article about how to use research questions to outline your Phase I project scope-of-work.

After you’ve identified your Phase I research questions, you then need to break them down to the task level. Here are some areas to consider as you create tasks from your research questions:

  • Which key personnel need to contribute time to complete tasks associated with each research question? Approximately how many hours will be required from each person for each task?
  • What materials will need to be purchased, leased, or rented to conduct the task level work?
  • Will any team members need to use facilities at another institution to perform the tasks? If so, they’ll need to locate that institution’s Facility and Use Agreement and take appropriate steps to obtain university approval for a company member to perform work using its facilities pre-proposal submission.
  • Is your company partnering with a university? If so, be sure to work with the university’s Sponsored Programs office to determine key elements to include within the subaward budget, such as the university’s indirect rate and fringe rates for both faculty and students who are involved in the project. These rates must be taken into consideration in order to determine total allowable project costs associated with university faculty/staff, students, and materials.
  • What measurable results will you need to achieve to demonstrate success in completing each task?
  • Are there any risks associated with any of your tasks? If so, what is your mitigation plan to address them?

As you begin to draft your work plan, you may find that consideration of the above questions naturally paved the way for developing some simple graphics to supplement your narrative, such as…

  • An organization chart clearly showing the hierarchy of the project team (there may be a separate one for your university partner) and the number of hours associated with each person’s project performance.
  • A Gantt chart listing the work plan tasks and milestones over the 6-8 month project performance period.
  • Small simple sub-charts for each task description showing the project members(s) involved on the task, his/her number of hours, and milestone objectives.

A strong work plan lends a great deal of credibility to a project proposal for agency reviewers and increases its chance of being selected for award.