Technical and Business Assistance

What is TABA?

by Jim Greenwood, Greenwood Consulting Group, MTIP consultant and guest columnist

The goal of an SBIR or STTR project is to commercialize the results of the R&D so that agency or private sector customers benefit. To assist in this transition effort, some SBIR/STTR agencies provide small amounts of funding to hire someone to conduct market research or otherwise help with the commercialization activities for the project. Formerly known as Direct Technical Assistance or Discretionary Technical Assistance (DTA), the new term for this is Technical and Business Assistance (TABA)*.

Most agencies providing TABA have contracted with a private firm to work with their SBIR/STTR recipients on commercialization planning. However, agencies now have the ability to provide you (but are not required to do so), the SBIR/STTR Phase I awardee, no more than $6,500 supplemental funds so you can hire your own commercialization assistance providers. To request TABA supplemental funds, you will need to include the TABA request in your SBIR/STTR cost proposal as an amount above and beyond the agency’s normal funding limit. For example, if the agency typically caps Phase I awards at $150,000, you will submit a proposal for not more than $156,500. You also will need to explain, in the budget justification, who you will be hiring and what their qualifications are to assist with your commercialization efforts.

There are several important considerations here: 

  1. You must include a request for TABA funds at the time you submit your proposal.
  2. You must specify a third-party provider of the TABA—you cannot get TABA if you plan to do all the commercialization efforts with internal company resources/personnel.
  3. You cannot tack onto a $5,000 request your indirect rate or fee/profit—it is $5,000 and $5,000 only.
  4. If you decide to select a commercialization assistance provider other than the firm contracted by the agency, the agency can decide whether or not it believes your plan for the TABA, and the qualifications of the third-party provider, are adequate and appropriate. In other words, just asking for TABA to fund your own commercialization assistance provider isn’t a guarantee the agency will approve it. 
  5. Research the types of services that the agency’s contracted firm can provide – $6,500 isn’t likely enough to fund a third-party to do very much commercialization assistance for you. This latter point, by the way, is often overlooked. The firm hired by an SBIR/STTR agency to provide TABA to its many SBIR/STTR winners will benefit from economies of scale that it can pass onto its many small business clients (e.g., volume discounts on market databases and reports). You may require very specific assistance that warrants selecting your own commercialization assistance providers.
  6. TABA supplemental funds for Phase II awardees range between $5,000 and $50,000 depending on the agency.
  7. Not all agencies provide TABA. Some only provide TABA for Phase II awardees.

To determine if an SBIR/STTR agency provides TABA, review their latest solicitation. Because TABA has been known under various names, be prepared to look for text that describes the supplemental funding/assistance described in this article regardless of what name might be tacked onto it. If you don’t find text describing such assistance, then you can always contact the agency’s SBIR/STTR office to determine if they provide TABA or not.  

*The full text of the of section 9(q) of the Small Business Act that describes the Discretionary Technical and Business Assistance, can be found here:
15 U.S.C. 638(q)

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