Initial client meeting
At our initial meeting, JHEverson Consulting will reach a mutual understanding with you about your interests in a solicitation topic in relation to your technology and business concerns and the intent and scope of the solicitation topic. There are several outcomes of this initial meeting:
- Review the agency’s solicitation topic with you, as well as your technology and business status and reasons for bidding
- Determine if this topic fits within JHEverson Consulting’s expertise. If it does and you wish to proceed, JHEverson Consulting will undertake the following steps.
- Review your technical approach to the solicitation topic and check that it has the potential to solve its problem. Ascertain the technical readiness level (TRL) of your approach for a subsequent comparison with the competition’s TRLs. Review experimental and computer simulation work you have done to validate the technical approach. Check applicable patents. Review diagrams that illustrate your concept.
- Check with the agency on its definition of innovation, as the concept can be defined in many ways (see this Wikipedia entry for more details). Which definition counts for the agency’s evaluation of your technical approach? If incremental improvements are eligible for innovation, how great must the increment be?
A technology assessment involves proposal preparation that addresses the soundness of approach, technical merit, and state-of-the-art awareness. JHEverson Consulting’s searches of Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) databases will determine whether your proposed innovation is similar to topics from current or past solicitations. The search will be expanded to include research and development (R&D) firms, universities, government laboratories, and working groups to compare your technical approach with others’.
The technology-assessment component of the process involves TRLs that agencies use to measure progress toward commercialization. Using TRLs on a scale of one to nine, JHEverson Consulting will assess the current TRL of the proposed innovation with you and attempt to obtain agency agreement as to what the higher-level TRL should be for that solicitation topic to demonstrate feasibility by the end of Phase I. The same thinking applies to TRLs and Phase II. JHEverson Consulting will work with you to propose that the R&D work for Phase I is based on sound objectives and questions to be answered by Phase I tasks in reaching that higher TRL. This approach will reduce the risk in raising your technology to a higher level by using TRLs as a benchmarking measure.
In addition to TRLs, the technology assessment will focus on the manufacturing requirements needed for commercialization (for more information on TRLs, please visit the Wikipedia entry about them). These requirements can be defined in terms of manufacturing readiness levels (MRLs) that were developed in collaboration with industry and are reconciled with TRLs (for more information, please visit DoD Technology Transition Programs: Pathways to Defense Commercialization). These 10 levels establish and promote a basis of technology development for acquisition programs. Realistically, the MRL discussion would be limited in the Phase I proposal, partly because of the Department of Defense’s page limitation (20 pages for the Army) and the need to evaluate your innovation during Phase I to understand manufacturing ramifications. More MRL details would be discovered during the work in Phase II and would serve as input to the Phase II prototype design.
The outcome of the technology assessment task will do the following:
- Determine the extent to which your technical approach is truly innovative (for example, does it make incremental improvements or is it a game changer). If it is innovative, then continue with these steps.
- Evaluate the competitive environment (such as technology push), especially in terms of TRLs. Compare your TRL with your competitions’.
- Select potential university or industry teaming partners from the competitive environment to support your work plan if needed.
- Evaluate other potential technical solutions that may rival your approach.
- Obtain from the agency a statement about what constitutes a demonstration of feasibility during Phase I in terms of raising your current TRL to a higher one.
- Continue discussing with the agency whether there is a critical need for your technology or whether it would be nice to have but can be deferred until later. Determine if there will be multiple awards as a potential indicator of agency urgency.
- Determine the R&D you will need to exceed your competitions’ TRL and reach the TRL the agency requires by the end of Phase I.
- Assess the MRL requirements needed to manufacture a prototype that will be developed and evaluated by the end of Phase II. Given that your innovation at the outset of Phase I is most likely in its infancy, only limited comments can be made at that point. More detail on MRLs can be added in the progression to and during Phase II.
The next step is the client team review.