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Accounting Tips for SBIR/STTR Awardees

Accounting Tips for SBIR/STTR Awardees

Jameson & Company specializes in accounting for government grants and contracts. Ed Jameson recently presented three webinars on understanding indirect cost rates, how to set up your books for government awards, and how to survive the audits embedded in your federal funding award. Here are a few takeaways and some additional sources of information you can use as you prepare to manage your SBIR/STTR award.

Indirect Cost Rates
The number one mistake that SBIR/STTR candidates make is proposing indirect cost rates that are too low. The thought is that by paying themselves less, more money “goes to science.” However, the government expects your high-end science to be worth something and a larger indirect cost rate actually appears more stable. Jameson urges proposal recipients to think about the point in the project where you’ll go from paying workers by the hour to paying salaries with benefits. Underestimating indirect costs, in the beginning, makes it impossible to increase later.You can learn more about calculating indirect rates and government cost proposals herehere, and here

Accounting Systems for Government Awards
The federal government requires your accounting system to include three schedules – a payroll reconciliation schedule, an indirect rate calculation schedule, and a schedule of indirect rates applied to all jobs. Understanding what the government will ask of you later, and using an accounting system that aligns with this saves time, money and confusion. Learn more about the requirements of a government-approved accounting system here.

Government Audits
Almost all agencies are likely to audit your financials. The Defense Contract Audit Administration (DCAA) oversees audits for DoD contracts as well as some of the other SBIR Agencies. You can learn more about DCAA audits here as well as through the SBIR.gov tutorials mentioned above. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) and National Science Foundation (NSF) also provide tutorials about their post-award monitoring and reporting requirements. Learn more about their requirements here and here

It is always recommended that as soon as your small business can, you engage with a CPA with government contracting experience. Their experience will help you stay on top of government contract/grant reporting requirements.

Hot off the presses! TechLink Economic Impact Study

Hot off the presses! TechLink Economic Impact Study of DoD SBIR/STTR Programs Published

In 2018, TechLink completed the first comprehensive analysis of the Department of Defense SBIR and STTR programs. TechLink’s goal was to quantify the DoD SBIR/STTR program’s overall contribution to the U.S. economy and defense mission. It examined the economic outcomes and impacts, up to 2018, of DoD SBIR/STTR Phase II contracts initiated from FY 1995 through 2012.  

To learn more about the key findings, including over $121 billion in sales and investments resulting from DoD SBIR/STTR funding and notable success stories, check out the full report here

2020 Fast Micro-Grants are here!

2020 Fast Micro-Grants are here!

If you are planning to submit a Phase I or Phase II SBIR/STTR proposal in the coming months, you may be eligible to receive one of MTIP’s 2020 FAST micro-grants. Qualified applicants will be reimbursed up to $1,500.00 for costs related to the preparation of their SBIR/STTR proposals (in addition to the free consulting and proposal reviews available from MTIP).  There are only 10 micro-grants available so apply early!

For more information and to access the application click here.

Partner spotlight: Innovate Montana

Partner spotlight: Innovate Montana to host 2019 Symposium in Butte

Butte, Montana holds a hub of innovation and entrepreneurial spirit and is an ideal location for Innovate Montana’s 2019 symposium. Innovate Montana is a program from the Montana Governor’s Office of Economic Development to help tech companies start, grow, or move to Montana. From pairing entrepreneurs with mentors to planning advice, and even being a beacon of encouragement for businesses who decide to relocate to Montana, this organization is an amazing resource. 

The Innovate Montana Symposium 2019 will take place this October 14-16 at the Copper King Hotel and Convention Center and we encourage you to go! This is their “flagship” event for investors, advisors, and entrepreneurs to connect. The focus of the symposium is growth through investment, new markets, and more. Speakers and panelists will talk about “actionable steps” for creating a sustainable company culture. Coming from exciting and impressive backgrounds are the three keynote speakers: Fritz Lanman, CEO of ClassPass, Padded Murphy, VP of Global Marketing at WeWork, and Deano Roberts, VP of Global Workplace at Slack.

Innovate Montana invites you to two days of “incredible speakers, captivating buzz sessions, and opportunities to network across all sectors.” Fritz will kickstart the event with an inspiring discussion on removing barriers to growth and then have a chat with Governor Steve Bullock. Day two of the symposium will be led by Padden and Deano sharing insight of their trades and the “entrepreneurial ecosystem in Montana.” To keep things fun and exciting there will be a giveaway modeled by the infamous TV show, Shark Tank. A panel of “sharks” will judge 5 lucky businesses willing to get on stage and sell their idea. Winner will take home $10,000 worth of prizes. Anyone can apply for free before September 20th. 

To register for the Symposium click here.

For more about Innovate Montana visit http://innovatemontana.com/

MTIP receives 2020 FAST Grant!

MTIP receives 2020 FAST Grant!

MTIP is pleased to announce that we have been awarded a $125,000 Federal and State Technology (FAST) Partnership Program grant to evolve our support for Montana’s technology-related businesses for the seventh time. The grant was awarded by the U.S. Small Business Administration for the 2020 year. Only 24 out of 50 states receive FAST funding after a competitive application that includes proposal review by the SBA, NASA, the Missile Defense Agency, U.S. Navy Office of Naval Research, and the NIH. 

MSU’s TechLink Center collaborates to advance Montana’s innovation economy and stimulate economic development. The executive director of TechLink, Brett Cusker, comments that “FAST funding will help more Montana companies focused on high-risk technology successfully compete for important seed capital through the Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer programs.”Montana’s most promising sector of the economy is small technology firms. Due to the scenic beauty and other amenities, Montana has attracted technology entrepreneurs and spawned numerous startup companies. One of the state’s challenges is growing the technology sector outside the traditional university hubs. MTIP is proud to be a part of this outreach noting that 27 Montana towns have had at lease one SBIR/STTR awardee to date. 

Stay tuned this year as we expand services by rolling-out additional SBIR/STTR resources for Montana high-tech companies. This year we will:Provide training, outreach, proposal development tools and expert technical assistance to Montana tech startups such asa new workshop on preparing SBIR/STTR cost proposals project management and proposal templates to jump-start proposal writing more webinars/seminars with SBIR Program ManagersFAST Micro-Grants for small technology businesses working on SBIR/STTR proposalsCollaborate with other organizations in our mentor network to identify and engage with as many early-stage technology companies as possible through support for accelerator, alliance and economic development partners regional seminars across the state live-stream workshops and recorded webinars to enable rural innovators and partner organizations to access our program content.

Read more here.

Partner Spotlight: Congratulations to MSU, 406 Labs, and Early Stage Montana

Partner Spotlight: Congratulations to MSU, 406 Labs, and Early Stage Montana

Shelby Morris, MTIP Program Specialist

Montana State University isn’t just located in a beautiful part of the country, it’s also situated in an ecosystem with the potential for high tech companies to reach commercial success. Shelby Morris, MTIP’s program specialist, had a chance to sit down with Daniel Juliano about the i6 Challenge and what this means for Montana. Juliano, head of MSU’s Technology Transfer Office, recognized Montana’s regional capabilities and sought out an impressive grant that would coalesce inventors, the university, and commercial interests, to give this region a jump start. The i6 Challenge competition is part of the U.S. Economic Development Administration Regional Innovation Strategies Program. The goal is to leverage private and public funding to streamline the growth of innovative high-tech companies.

The $750,000 award will be spread out over three years with the intention of creating a self-sufficient environment by the end of the term. Juliano remarks that Montana is in a prime position to receive the award as MSU is a premier technical university focused on science and engineering stationed close to Next Frontier Capital, Montana’s largest venture capital fund, surrounded by the efforts of non-profit mentorship for high tech startups kindled by Early Stage Montana. The opportunity for job creation across the state will be completely supported by the efforts of this grant.

Currently, there’s a disconnect between promising technologies developed by Montana companies in the lab and venture capital investment. Often times prototypes don’t exist yet or there is no workable business plan. Dollars from the grant will ultimately create a machine to support ideas through the life-cycle; from conception to commercialization.

For MTIP this is very exciting as the SBIR/STTR program works with the end goal of commercialization. MTIP will be a part of the collaboration to help Montana innovators connect to this growth machine.

Read more here.

Trademark basics

Trademark basics

Guest post from MTIP senior advisor, Christie Bell

It’s common for entrepreneurs to be overwhelmed and intimidated by the complexities of intellectual property concerns. The term intellectual property, often referred to as “IP,” includes patents, trademarks, service marks, copyrights, trade secrets, and more. Today, we offer a brief breakdown of the general aspects of trademarks and service marks. Read more on this subject in MTIP’s recently updated Trademark Guide.Trademarks and service marks distinguish a company’s goods and services from others. The protection extends from brand names such as Nike®; stylized logos like the Boar’s Head® meat products logo, and to words in well-known catch phrases as in, “Hasta la Vista Baby®” from the movie The Terminator.

There are two types of enforceable trademarks that can be created bybusinesses or individuals; the TM symbol, “TM” or circle-r, “®.” Both are applied using a superscript font to the immediate right of the protectable brand words or images. When protecting a service offering, such as an electrician, the superscript “SM” can be applied.

When a company applies for and is awarded trademark or service mark rights from the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), they can use the circle-r (®) symbol. The circle-r affords a company of a registered brand official documentation that presumes national ownership of a trademark, national protection and a stronger case against infringement, and certain international assurances.

With the assistance of an IP attorney, USPTO registrations start at about $1,700. A private attorney can provide legal advice, respond to requests or a refusal from the USPTO, and help in conducting a thorough patent search reducing the risk of infringement. Contact the State Bar of Montana for a list of local IP legal counselors.

Congratulations to Bee Alert Technology on their successful Kickstarter campaign!

Congratulations to Bee Alert Technology on their successful Kickstarter campaign!

by Ann Peterson, MTIP Program Manager

Bee Alert Technology’s Bee Health Guru citizen science project Kickstarter campaign received over 653 backers in 30 days and exceeded their goal!  Bee Alert Technology of Missoula received SBIR funding from the Department of Defense and USDA which supported the development of an innovative mobile app to monitor the health of bees. Since its original SBIR funding in 2004, Bee Alert has evolved their technology to incorporate specially developed artificial intelligence programming into a smartphone app that will listen to your bees and reference a proprietary database of sounds that will tell you in seconds if there is anything wrong with your bees.  Check out the video on their Kickstarter page and follow their forum for announcements about when the app is ready for public release.

Online Platforms to Assist in Conducting Your Patent Search

Online Platforms to Assist in Conducting Your Patent Search

by Christie Bell, President Christie Bell, Inc., Certified Licensing Professional, and MTIP SBIR Consultant

You discovered a unique solution to a problem. It might even be the next big thing! While it’s tempting to jump head first into realizing your idea, take a step back before making a potentially costly mistake. If you plan to make, use, or sell your invention, according to Title 35 U.S. Code § 271, you could be liable for infringement if there is “prior art” or evidence that the idea is already in existence. Research into prior art isn’t straight forward, but you can get a preliminary idea before deciding to hire a patent attorney to conduct a professional patent search. 

A thorough patent investigation starts with a search by you, the inventor. It’s not enough that Walmart doesn’t sell a version of your solution, or that a Google search revealed no similar products.  In his Patent Search 101 Tutorial, Gene Quinn, founder of IP Watch Dog®, clarifies two critical reasons to search for patents that correlate with your idea., You will: 1) familiarize yourself with prior art; and 2) become informed on prior art so you can focus on what makes your invention unique. 

Start your search at the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). The USPTO is the U.S. Department of Commerce agency that issues patents to inventors, and trademark registrations for product and intellectual property identification. Begin your USPTO patent search process by reviewing the office’s help section or viewing a comprehensive video presentation on how to conduct a patent search.

In addition to USPTO, try Free Patents Online (FPO) which was developed to make patent research faster, easier, and more accessible. The FPO database is funded by advertisers so expect to tolerate sideline product pitches. Paid subscriptions are available for advanced services such as AcclaimIP, FPO’s patent landscape and analysis tool. You can customize search criteria for US Patents, US Patent Applications, European Patents (EP), as well as abstracts of Japanese, World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), and German patents. FPO’s search engine is driven by keywords and patent hits are provided in the form of an easy-to-read table with clickable links to patent summaries including the patent and application number, abstract, inventors, filing and publication date, assignee, patent images and more.

Google Patents, another free resource, allows for the search of patents from around the world, plus technical papers and books. Results include images, downloadable PDFs and citations. The Google Patents database includes full-text documents for the United States, 21 additional countries and WIPO. The search input options include entering a patent publication or application number, freeform text, and inventor or assignee names. Rare among free patent search services, Google Patents allows for the entry of large text blocks to run their Prior Art Finder keyword extractor which will render suggested search terms. 

After you’ve completed a comprehensive online search, it’s tempting to stop there and move directly into the patent application process. Not yet. No matter how online savvy you are, you need to protect yourself from potential costly mistakes by hiring an IP attorney to perform a professional patent search.  Your intellectual property (IP) may well comprise the backbone of your business. It’s vitally important that you take the necessary precautions to ensure your IP is protected from others making, using or selling your creations. Conducting a preliminary search on your own is an essential first step and will provide a solid basis for any IP attorney you might hire. Contact the Montana Bar Association for information on IP lawyer referrals to ensure the help of a legitimate and knowledgeable professional. This approach will not only protect you from infringing on other inventors but also provide the needed information to tease out why your invention is truly unique. Knowing exactly what sets your idea apart from related inventions and expertly illuminating its distinctive qualities will increase your chances of filing a successful patent application.

Download MTIP’s Innovator’s Guide to learn more about how you can protect your inventions.

Should you hire a grant writer?

Should you hire a grant writer?

by Ann Peterson, MTIP Program Manager

In our recent SBIR/STTR proposal workshops, a question about hiring grant writers came up. Our initial cringe at hearing this question resulted from one too many prospective applicants who think that hiring a grant writer will allow them to off-load the hard work of writing a compelling SBIR/STTR proposal.

It just doesn’t work that way.

However, a professional grant-writer can be an important member of your SBIR/STTR proposal preparation team and I had a chance to meet a few great writers on my visit to Missoula.

MTIP’s no cost services for you include a full proposal review. We do not provide grant-writing assistance. We will help you with developing and writing your commercialization plans required for most phase I and all phase II proposals.  Keep the following in mind:

1) SBIR/STTR reviewers and program managers are looking for sufficient details in your technical proposal to convince them that you understand their needs, have an innovative approach with compelling technical and scientific merit and that your team is the right team to fund. No amount of good writing will compensate for a weak technical proposal.

2) Develop a strong proposal preparation schedule and assign tasks to each member of your team.  Refer to our resources page for links to help you with a proposal preparation schedule, required registrations, and talking with SBIR topic authors.

3) The best professional grant writers act as the project manager for your proposal development team. Heed their recommendations. Your principal investigator and key technical team members will write the technical proposal. Your grant writer will co-write, ensure it reads well and addresses the required components outlined in the solicitation and the topic.

Questions or thoughts? Reach out to discuss more.

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