Developing the Proposal

Across the participating federal agencies, approximately 10% to 25% of proposals are funded for Phase I, and approximately 35% to 50% are funded for Phase II.


  • Be focused on one main idea or concept;
  • Address high-quality research or research and development; ideas should be at the “cutting-edge” of the subject being investigated;
  • Be directed toward an advanced concept related to an important scientific problem or opportunity; and
  • Have significant commercial potential; ideas should have the opportunity to penetrate many different markets.


  • Be a new and innovative idea;
  • Not be a simple extension of earlier work;
  • Not be currently in the Public Domain; and
  • Be carefully developed, and concisely but thoroughly articulated.


  • Clearly articulate how you will demonstrate feasibility (Phase I) or efficacy (Phase II).
  • Identify the broad long-term objective (Phase III) and then articulate how the proposed work (Phase I and Phase II) will enable the strategic plan.
  • Identify the tangible product that will be developed; give it a name!
  • Identify the market and your specific plan to address the market.
  • Use formatting, figures, and tables to help the reviewers find and recall important information.
  • Include Letters of Support from consultants, partners, and potential customers.
  • If you are not an experienced grant writer, get help from a colleague or a consultant.
  • Complete and submit the complete proposal on time.
  • Read, follow, and completely understand the proposal preparation guidelines.
  • Adequately research the project.
  • Develop and rework the research approach.
  • Define the objectives, design a work plan to satisfy the objectives, and clearly articulate these in the proposal.
  • Prepare at minimum two complete drafts prior to preparing the final submission.
  • Convince the reviewers that YOU are the BEST QUALIFIED business to carry out the project.
  • Ask people to read, critique, and improve your proposal. Listen to their feedback! 


  • The Abstract - This is the first thing the reviewers will read.
  • The CV/Biosketch Pages - This is the second thing many reviewers will read.
  • The Research-Specific Instructions (e.g. federal requirements for research involving animal or human subjects)
  • The Regulatory Requirements (e.g. FDA investigation device exemption regulations)
  • The Facilities and Infrastructure Sections - Why are you the best company in the world to undertake this project?
  • The Budget and Budget Justification - Demonstrate professionalism by planning a comprehensive budget.
  • The Commercialization Plan - How does your technical proposal support your overall business plan?
  • The Timeline - Is the work plan realistic? Does it make sense?
  • IP - What is the status of your IP? What other IP exists in the space?
  • The Competition - The reviewers know your competition. Do you?
  • Your Presentation - Good ideas will suffer significantly from poor presentation! Never waste the reviewers' time with fluff and boilerplate. Do not re-use proposals.
  • Your Company - You must have a "real company".
  • Your Innovation - Describe the innovation and significance of the project concisely, quickly, clearly, and accurately. Describe why your innovation is an improvement to the state-of-the art. If you are not the “real expert” or you do not have “real innovation”, do not waste your time; if you cannot reference prior publications, research, and/or hardware in the specific proposal area, you will not be perceived as a “real expert”.


  • Poorly written and poorly presented.
  • Principal Investigator lacks necessary technical expertise.
  • Insufficient literature review.
  • Insufficient technical information.
  • Cannot be completed within timeframe allotted.
  • Research already exists.
  • Too vague and unfocused.
  • Failure to indicate how project can go into Phase II.
  • Poor commercialization potential.