Monthly Archives: August 2012

ASU to host international border conference

Arizona State University and the U.S. Department of Commerce will host an international conference to gather thought leaders and innovators from throughout the border region to define strategies and execute regional initiatives to create jobs and enhance economic growth.

Read more….


CSPO Launches DoD Energy Innovation Atlas

CSPO has launched the “DoD Energy Innovation Atlas”. The latest product of our project “Energy Innovation Systems From the Bottom Up: Technology Policies for Confronting Climate Change,” the web-based Atlas for the first time provides access to the full array of energy innovation activities at the U.S. Department of Defense.  Using interactive graphs and charts, the Atlas includes information about all key activities in DOD’s unique, end-to-end energy innovation system, including research, development, testing and evaluation, procurement, and deployment at military installations.

Austin medical school will have $2B economic impact

A medical school and teaching hospital could mean nearly 15,000 new jobs and about $2 billion annually in economic activity for the Austin area, according to a report by TXP Inc.


Deconstructing a solicitation to construct a shell document

It is a fact that we have all read the solicitation. At least once. Rarely do we read it twice. And, significantly, we almost never pour over it for hours. This usually results in the false perception that we remember it accurately. Often, we remember what we wanted the solicitation to say. This, predictably, leads to the following conversation:

Team member #1: I clearly remember it saying that widget production was going to be funded.

Team member #2: I believe it said that only research on how to make a widget was acceptable for funding.

Team member #3: Really, as long as we say we’ll research and produce widgets, I think we’ll be okay.

One way to avoid this guess work and confusion is to create a “shell document” that brings important information from the solicitation into a Word document. This includes format, content, and review requirements. If organized well and precisely, the shell document starts the proposal writers on the right path to a not only compliant proposal, but a responsive one as well.

What: While everyone will have an opinion on interpretation of requirements and perhaps also on the intent of the instructions or funding agency, the construction of a “shell” document can mitigate lengthy discussions on what to include and what NOT to include. This allows the team to focus on a high level understanding of what they want to propose and how it fits with the solicitation. A shell document deconstructs the solicitation, placing the document format requirements and outline of content into a Word document, inserting the content requirement, and following up with the evaluation requirements. Please note that the original solicitation remains the central point of truth and should be referenced regularly.

When: A shell document should be created before the kick off meeting and takes approximately 2 hours to create (based on a standard NSF/NIH solicitation). Although it doesn’t take long to create it is invaluable as a point of reference over the life of the proposal production process.

Who: The proposal manager, writer, or similar individual can produce the shell document. However, for smaller proposal efforts, the principal investigator will be able to do this.

How: Thoroughly read and annotate the solicitation and any amendments or changes prior to creating a shell document. A shell document can be created following these steps:

  1. Identify structure. In the solicitation identify all references to the format (e.g., 1″ margins, double spaced, Times New Roman) and organization of the response (e.g., two page executive summary, introduction, technical narrative) and create a Word document with these constraints. Insert page breaks between sections. It is recommended that you keep the format simple and do not use more than three levels of headings (i.e., heading 1 is bold, heading 2 is bold and italic, heading 3 is italic).
  2. Identify required content. In a different color font (i.e., blue), insert the requirements of the solicitation verbatim into the appropriate sections of the shell document. This may include inserting text into multiple sections of the shell document, for example the technical solution may need to occur in two sections.
  3. Review criteria. Identify all the review criteria and insert it into the appropriate sections. Again, review criteria may be applied to more than one section.
  4. Name the shell document file and circulate to the proposal team. This will familiarize the team with the requirements and organization, creates a consensus opinion about the structure and page allocation for the final document, and ensures accuracy.

Next Steps:

Once you have a shell document, it should be used to write content into, e.g., high level content for the Pink Team review. It can also serve as a touch point for reference throughout the proposal development period. Think of the shell document as a map for the team. And we all know that knowing where you’re going is critical to arriving where you want to be.


Black font = Required structure

Blue font = Required content

Red font = Formating requirements

Green font = Review criteria

Part A: Institute Structure

35 page limit (30 + 5 for SOW) All text, including text in tables and charts, must adhere to all font size and line spacing requirements listed herein. Font and line spacing requirements do not have to be followed for illustrations, flowcharts, drawings, and diagrams.

Part A.1: Business Plan

The offeror shall outline a comprehensive financial plan to achieve sustainability of the pilot Institute within five (5) years. The proposal shall include a detailed business plan for the formation and sustainment of the pilot Institute, including appropriate roles for and resources from government (federal, state, and local), industry, academic, and any other formal partners. The proposal shall include a plan for interfacing with industry associations, professional societies, and economic development organizations. In addition to the details of the business plan, the offeror shall include how other government authorities will be leveraged, including the Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) program, Manufacturing Extension Partnerships (MEPs), and other US Government authorities that might supplement this effort.

Viability of the plan for the pilot Institute to be financially self-sustainable within a 5-year period.

Quality and extent of the desired 50/50 cost share in terms of the source of the cost share, and the quality/applicability of any in-kind cost share to the operation of the Institute.

Pretty in Pink (Team) – Post 1 of 3

Not everyone’s cut out for Pink Team reviews. For example, if you are allergic to deadlines, do not continue to read this post. If however, your ears perk up when I say that a Pink Team review can lead to organizing your thoughts and creating a highly strategic and compelling story that will decrease downstream effort and increase your chances of writing a winning proposal, then by all means, read on!

A Pink Team review is scheduled approximately 1/3 of the way into the proposal development period (this can be two days to two weeks after the sponsor agency releases the solicitation). Pink Team only reviews “bullet” points or very high level story line concepts.

A Pink Team review focuses more on what you AIM to say, rather than HOW you say it (as compared to a Red Team review, which evaluates an almost complete response). The Pink Team reviews a high level draft of all the proposal pieces or components, i.e., technical approach, personnel, management plan, budget. This can take the form of bullet points, outline, themes, high points, call out boxes, text, illustrations, or text boxes. Ideally, the reviewer will be able to see the direction you’re heading and be able to construct a rational as to why you would continue on that path, or change direction. Essentially, the draft proposal must reflect the required organization of your response to the solicitation (page length, font, format, etc.) and describe how you plan to respond to the solicitation requirements and review criteria. This is described by some industry professionals as storyboarding, another  term is “mock up.”

Once the challenge of discussing what is “in” and what is “out” of the proposal, the draft becomes a guide for everyone to base their future work on (and clearly articulate writing assignments). Ultimately, this activity decreases the time it takes to get to the final draft because the group is able to use the same map to arrive at your final destination: a winning proposal!