Sell Your Team Through Your Biographical Sketch

Why should an SBIR/STTR agency hire your company?  While you may have a really innovative technology, it will be your team that does the work. Spending time on the biographical sketch is your opportunity to reinforce your team’s experience and highlight your credentials towards the specific role you will have on this company’s SBIR/STTR project.  The biographical sketches or biosketches show the review committee and the agency program managers that your company should be “hired” to carry out this federally funded research.  Let’s go through a couple of key points related to your biosketch

1. Your biosketch is for your role at the company.  With University led projects, we see two common mistakes. First, your position title for this project is not associate professor or your University position title.  The biosketch position title refers to your role on the project. If you are the PI, state that in the position title. If you are to become the company chief technology officer, state that versus PostDoc. Relatedly, your biosketch should include the small business as part of your employment work history. The reviewers aim to fund small businesses, not university research.  Don’t give them any room to guess your intentions. These changes are simple and effective ways to reinforce your role in the company’s efforts

2. Format matters.  Each agency has a slightly different suggested template for their biosketches. Take the time to craft yours towards the agency’s guidelines. Importantly, this means following the guidelines on page length AND guidelines related to what each section contains. For example, NSF biosketches are limited to two pages and request no more than five “products” that demonstrate your expertise related to the current project. A long list of patents, publications, and talks will deter your reviewer and is not compliant with the biosketch template.

3. Justify your experience as it relates to the grant.  If you are the PI, you must be experienced in leading high caliber research, managing projects, and have technical expertise in the area of the project.  For the NIH biosketch, the Personal Statement is an opportunity to highlight the team member’s experience and expertise as it relates to their specific role in the grant. You may consider leading with a phrase like:  As [insert your company title], I have the expertise and training to successfully carry out the [insert your specific role(s) on this grant.]

4. Don’t downplay your “contributions to science.”  If you lack a rich history of publications, this may not be an issue for the NIH Contributions to Science section.  Often, team members with rich industry experience will have other credentials that illustrate their experience for the grant.  This may include publications, efforts in bringing a product to market, and significant positions they held in industry. All of these are appropriate to bring up for your contributions to science.

5.Make it easy to read. Even in the biosketch, you want to make it easy for your reviewer to pick out important details.  Don’t be overly verbose.  Highlight, underline and bullet point key experiences that justify your role in the grant.

You’ve spent the time pulling together a winning team. We hope these key suggestions help you make the point to a reviewer that your company is perfect ‘to be hired’ for this SBIR/STTR opportunity.  Reach out to with questions on preparing your biosketch.