Announcement of Federal Funding Opportunity (FFO)
UPDATE: This opportunity has closed.
NIST invites eligible applicants to submit proposals to establish pilot projects that will develop, deploy and maintain a Business-to-Business Network (B2B Network) to support active business opportunity, supplier, technology and/or market matching within regions of the Manufacturing Extension Partnership System. Regions may be those of individual Centers, multi-Center, state-wide or multi-state. Proposed projects should consist of teams with expertise in business opportunity identification, technology identification and translation, and market and technology scouting, as detailed further below.
Over the life of the NIST Manufacturing Extension Partnership, a frequent need has been demonstrated for a business and technology matching system that supports the work of MEP Centers with their clients in finding timely business opportunities, meeting outstanding technology needs and making known supplier capabilities and capacities to new potential customers. Previous attempts to develop and deploy a robust network to achieve these types of matching have not fully met expectations for breadth/depth of use and impacts. Several opportunities for improvement were identified that should increase the use and impacts including (1) an active, human network to enter and extract timely, relevant information on the various opportunities, actively manage content related to opportunities and the hands-on client knowledge needed to make effective, efficient matches; (2) a flexible IT platform/solution that is responsive to the needs of the MEP system; (3) a sustainable business model for B2B Network transactions conducted on the network; (4) more robust content management related to the business, technology and market opportunities; and (5) a more robust education/awareness effort to demonstrate the benefits of the B2B Network to the manufacturers themselves.
The envisioned pilot B2B Network pilots are, first and foremost, human networks that are supported by underlying, appropriate technology that is easy to access and use and that contains the necessary data (i.e. technical and business) of sufficient quality, validity and timeliness that allows matches to be made in an effective, efficient manner. The B2B Network pilots must include an approach that provides for easy assignment of outcomes which can be linked to Centers in terms of direct impacts (projects, connections, commercialization, sales, etc.), postings of opportunities and information that are current or active and in which a matchmaker would have relative confidence in the figures provided in terms of value of the opportunities and outcome-based metrics upon which to evaluate network performance and efficacy. Specifically, each proposal must address the following objectives:
- Currency, Critical Mass and Validation of Data – How the applicant will identify, vet and assemble a critical mass of viable opportunities. What constitutes a critical mass will depend on the region considered, the demographics of its manufacturers and the resources which can be brought to bear to provide solutions and matches. The proposal must also address how the information included in the network will be actively managed to ensure the data are validated and maintained so that as opportunities are realized or aged out, there is an appropriate action taken within the system to remove or update those opportunities. The proposal must also describe how critical mass in the network will be maintained over time by ensuring that new opportunities are continually sought, vetted, and maintained.
- Functionality –How the functionality of the network (including any web sites or other displays of the information associated with it) will be easy to use, developed with the preferences of the intended audiences in mind and provide the general ability to search and find viable solutions. The human interface is imperative to optimize the matches that are not self-evident from exact syntax. That is, matches may become apparent only after analysis of opportunity and careful comparison against manufacturer inherent capabilities. It must be manufacturer-friendly. In other words, if Centers and the small and mid-size manufacturers are to embrace and utilize it, it needs to be designed with that in mind.
- Potential Duplication – In regions where there are existing networks supported by state and/or local governments, how the particular B2B Network pilot will build on, complement or supplement those networks, not duplicate them.
- Concrete Successes and Measurable Outputs –How the applicant will define appropriate metrics that produce evidence to validate the successful use of the network. Examples of measurable outcomes include but are not limited to connections made, requests filled, inventions licensed, revenue from licenses, fees generated and the variety of impacts (sales, cost savings, new products/services introduced over time, investments made or avoided) that companies might experience in finding and capturing opportunities.
Who is Eligible: Eligible applicants are existing Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) Centers. Applicants are strongly encouraged to form teaming arrangements involving multiple MEP Centers and service providers such that multiple Centers share appropriate infrastructure (hardware, software and/or services as examples) to address scouting needs on a regional level. An eligible organization may work individually or include proposed subawardees and/or contractors or other collaborators in a project proposal, effectively forming a team or consortium.
To view full Federal Funding Opportunity, click here.
Please submit your proposals via www.grants.gov under Funding Opportunity number 2014-NIST-MEP-B2BN-01
B2B Network Pilot Project Time-line:
Below is an outline of the key steps along with the target timing of each. These actions will take place over the next several months. Updates and changes will be posted to this site as needed.
- June 20, 2014 – Announcement of Federal Funding Opportunity (FFO) (45 Day Posting)
- Mid-July - Informational Webinar
- August 4, 2014 – Due Date for Proposals
- Mid-August - October 2014 – Review Process Continues and Selection of Proposed Awardees
- October -December – Preparation/Review and Execution of Official Award Package
An information webinar was held on Thursday, July 10,2014. The presentation slides and
are available online.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Get the latest Questions and Answers by downloading the FAQ document.
Please submit questions regarding this funding Opportunity to Diane Henderson @ firstname.lastname@example.org.