Pitching for Sponsored Research Agreements

When you propose a project to a corporation for collaborative sponsored research, your primary motivation is likely to be to support an exciting project in your lab. It’s natural to focus your proposal on your technology, your equipment, and your team. And of course, all three are critical to the proposed project’s success.

However, every researcher pitches an exciting idea, appropriate equipment, and exceptional personnel when proposing a sponsored research agreement (SRA). Great ideas are necessary but often insufficient for winning SRAs. The corporate decision makers are more likely to select projects that address their needs:

  • Advance the science underlying their existing products or in a critical research area.
  • Investigate a new area of potential interest for the company.
  • Solve a problem, e.g. reduce production costs or improve reliability of an existing product.

The decision-makers also have red flags:

  • Budgets, timelines, and milestones that are either too aggressive or too conservative.
  • Tasks and milestones that do not align well with the objectives of interest to the corporation.

These bullets are guidelines. The only way to know the needs that the corporation wants addressed is to do your homework, just as you would for any job interview. The more you understand about their business and challenges, the more you can tailor your presentation. Your pitch should focus on tackling their needs and not on teaching your science.

Your best sources of information are your contacts in Industry Engagement, Technology Development, and any contacts you may have within the corporation, the corporation’s annual report, and their website.

Pitch coach Linda Plano, PhD has adapted her original 10 Questions (that every pitch should answer) to help you craft a presentation that will engage corporate decision-makers from the first slide to the last, simultaneously building the business and science cases for selecting your project for their limited funding.

When you answer these questions with integrity and vision, they will help you build a deck that tells your story in your way, but makes it compelling to the corporation’s managers.

The 10 Questions

#QuestionHow to frame your answer
1Who cares?Address and quantify an important problem specific to the corporation’s business interests.
2What do you do?Illustrate how researcher’s program will provide an innovative solution to the problem.
3Why will they win?Show how new solution will improve the corporation’s competitive position and/or how researcher’s program is superior to other options.
4How will they stay ahead?If possible (e.g., through patent potential), indicate new barriers to entry for corporation’s competitors that the sponsored research will enable.
5Does it work?Provide data-based validation for the claims made in answering Questions 1 – 4.
6How will they make money?If applicable, indicate how the innovation will build on the corporation’s business model: add a new market, increase gross margins, or expand current product lines.
7How much will they make?If applicable, estimate increases in revenue or profits from the innovation.
8Why you?Validate the capabilities of the research team in executing on the proposed plan.
9What will you do?Highlight the value-added milestones that will be accomplished during the proposed program, culminating in deliverables that are important to the corporation.
10How much will it cost?Propose an appropriate amount of funding needed to accomplish the milestones in the proposed time frame.

How to Sign Up

To express interest in this session, please reach out to Director of Faculty Entrepreneurship, Rana K. Gupta, at rkgupta@bu.edu.

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