Did you know every year NASA invests over $160M in startups and entrepreneurs developing novel technologies? And the best part, it’s free money! NASA wants YOU to help them get to Mars and there are so many things they need to do this; the list is almost endless. But you can start with the one below, if you’re working in one of these areas then you probably have something NASA is looking for.
Human and health research
Energy and storage
IT and data management
Now, how do you know exactly what they’re looking for? Through the #SBIR and #STTR program they release a list of mission-driven topics asking people just like you to solve some of their biggest challenges. We won’t know what the 2023 topics will be until early next year, but we do know that you need to start preparing now to win funding. With NASA, it’s never too early to start building relationships.
To help get you started we’ve compiled a quick list of tips below, and if you’re successful with the “business development” phase we’ll invite you to participate in the next phase of our NASA Accelerator where we’ll help you write a winning Phase I proposal!
Step 1: Get acquainted with NASA! Just like you would prepare for a job interview, it is of the utmost importance you understand the relevant NASA programs your innovation could support. Consider it your job to know which NASA centers align with your technology, get familiar with current programs and the people who run them.
NASA is a relationship-oriented organization and now is the time to do your homework. You’ll need to build connections with the people you could be working with, get to know them, and let them get to know you.
Step 2: Don’t let a “no” keep you from trying again! You’ll need to make a lot of calls, and we mean a lot. The first person you talk to might connect you with someone else, and they’ll connect you with someone else down the hall, and they’ll … well, you get the point.
It might take 10 times to get to the right person, but that one person might make all the difference in the long run, as in the who funds your project. So, keep calling and keep emailing because persistence will pay off!
Step 3: Be prepared to ask a lot of questions! Do your research and get up to speed on what’s going on.
What have they done so far? What works, what doesn’t? What are they struggling to figure out, and what do they need to get to the finish line, or in this case the moon?
Once you know these things, it will make it that much easier to have productive conversations that may lead to an SBIR contract. Finding out as much as you can now, will help you create a compelling narrative as to why they need your solution in the future.
Step 4: Sell your technology and yourself! Show off how your technology will impact some of their most important future mission, but also show your enthusiasm for the chance to work with NASA!
They’re looking for passionate people who are champions of space exploration and want to be invested in long-term projects, often the technologies they need won’t be ready for 10 or 20 years. Connecting with program managers, directors and other important contacts at NASA will effectively boost your visibility and set you apart from other competitors. The goal is for someone you know to pull your proposal from the pile of thousands of applicants and vouch that you are worth taking a risk on.
As we get closer to the solicitation announcement, OK Catalyst will drop tips and strategies to help you get ready to submit. Applications for our 8-week NASA Accelerator are always open, apply on our website and if accepted, we will provide one-on-one coaching, proposal templates and one review of your final proposal.
If you want to learn more about OK Catalyst programs and to see if you’re a good fit, schedule a meeting with one of our SBIR experts.
OK Catalyst is an economic development organization that provides assistance in helping startups and early-stage founders identify federal SBIR/STTR funding opportunities, creating a competitive application, and personalized post-award project management. A program within the Tom Love Innovation Hub at the University of Oklahoma, OK Catalyst is powered by the U.S. Small Business Administration and Oklahoma Center for Advancement of Science and Technology.