You’ve done the hard work….at least up until now. You worked for months to polish up your proposal, get the budget together, collect your letters of commercial interest, validated that your company and PI are eligible to receive an SBIR or STTR, and got everything submitted.
It has been 6 months, or maybe even 8, and you may or may not know where your proposal is in the review process; but, one thing is for sure, you are anxiously waiting for news. Then you get something from the agency. It’s an email with attachments. When you open it, there is no indication that you are being ‘officially’ considered for funding, but the email and attachments are requesting information. Not only are they requesting information, they want a lot of it, and they are giving you only 3 days to respond. Congratulations, you’ve been sent the “just-in-time” (JIT) paperwork, and you have to drop everything and scramble to get the responses back to the agency in a timely manner.
JIT paperwork, is a good thing. Don’t construe it as funding being inevitable, but it certainly is a positive sign. The agency would not bother with seeking more information if they didn’t have any interest in funding you. This paperwork is after the scientific review and demonstrates that, at least the scientists, think your idea has some merit. Before you move to subsequent agency review, though, they will want to fill in some gaps.
Sometimes, our clients get technical questions; things that the reviewers were skeptical about or wanted more information. This is an opportunity for you to go into more detail and fill in those technical gaps to assuage the reviewers concerns. Almost always, the JIT documents will ask about your business practices and your commercialization potential if funded through an SBIR or STTR. They will ask about your accounting practices and how you keep track of accounts payable and receivable. They will want to know what software or methods you have in place for this. If you don’t have something like Quickbooks at this point, you are in trouble. If you don’t have Quickbooks, my advice is to close the email immediately, purchase and download the software right then, just so you can correctly answer that you do have a legitimate method and you don’t keep track of receipts using boxes and Exel. You will also need to indicate how you keep track of timesheets. You will be required to keep track of and record employee time in an official manner, so that you and the government will know what time and effort can be correctly billed to your project.
Additionally, there will very likely be a document where you will have to certify some statements. This is the official document that you will state and certify that you really are a small business located in the United States and the company ownership structure allows you to receive these funds. You will also certify that your P.I. is qualified to serve and is primarily employed by the company, or, in the case of an STTR, might be with your non-profit lab component. This is the serious document, that if you certify these items and they are not true, you can lose the funding and perhaps suffer punitive consequences.
Fortunately, we have resources to help you negotiate through the stressful few days between when the JIT documents get to you and when they are due back. We can help you directly and give you the benefit of our experience or refer you to one of our service providers for more complex issues.
We have an event scheduled for March 23, 2021 That will describe how to deal with Just-in-Time documents and the steps toward receiving an SBIR/STTR award. Plan for the Just In Time (JIT) paperwork NOW to avoid headaches and anxiety of not knowing what to expect!
Just remember, this is good news!