The SBIR/STTR programs are solicitation driven. In other words, the participating agencies publish areas of need, which can be either broad or specific. It is up to the applicant to review these solicitations and decide if they should submit a proposal for a particular topic solicitation.
Imagine your business has identified a solicitation. The first thing you may want to do is to find out about potential competitors who have received awards for similar research efforts. While you cannot find out which businesses will be submitting proposals along with yours, you can get a historical perspective on the businesses that have submitted to these particular topics in the past. To find this information you can use the searchable database at https://www.sbir.gov/sbirsearch/award/all. This database allows you to filter your search using an array of criteria, such as: Agency, Phase, Program, Year, etc.
By now you could have potentially identified 3 businesses that were awarded funds to conduct R&D that is aligned with yours. So what’s next: Should you consider them the competition and simply move forward with an in-it-to-win-it strategy? Of course you want to beat the competition, but are they more than that? Keep an open mind and consider the “competition” as potential partners.
We recommend doing some due diligence on these companies. This research could bring to bear opportunities that involve R&D collaborations, team build out, cross-licensing and commercialization partnerships. Here are some suggestions on how you can connect to them: First review their websites, read the abstracts of the proposals they were awarded, conduct a patent search at https://patents.google.com/ and review LinkedIn profiles of the principals.
Then, if you see that there could be possible cross-pollination, reach out to them directly. Phone number and email addresses are included in the SBIR.gov search results.