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FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions

ABOUT

Q.1. What is the Small Business Vouchers (SBV) program?

A.1. SBV is part of the Technology-to-Market program within the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE's) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE). SBV provides small clean energy businesses access to DOE's national labs' capabilities—making the contracting process simple, lab practices transparent, and access to the labs' unique facilities affordable.

Q.2. How does SBV work?

A.2. Small businesses operating in the clean energy sector can request assistance from a participating DOE national lab. If DOE accepts the request, DOE will issue a voucher for up to $300,000 that will allow the applicant access to a specific DOE national lab, with the goal of bringing the applicant's clean energy technology to market. The DOE funding provided through SBV will go to the DOE national lab.

Q.3. How much funding is available?

A.3. Qualifying businesses are eligible to receive individual vouchers worth between $50,000 and $300,000. The number of vouchers awarded in each program area will vary, depending on available funding in a particular round.

Q.4. How do I submit a Request for Assistance (RFA)?

A.4. To submit a RFA, follow the steps on the process page.


ELIGIBILITY

Q.1. Who is eligible to receive SBV assistance?

A.1. To qualify, businesses must have fewer than 500 full-time employees, be incorporated as for-profits, and be based in the United States with a majority U.S. ownership. Eligibility rules can be found under the Eligibility tab on sbv.org.

Q.2. Are businesses incorporated in U.S. territories eligible to receive vouchers?

A.2. Business incorporated in the any of the 50 states, U.S. territories, or possessions qualify. This includes the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the Republic of Marshall Islands and the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of Palau, and the District of Columbia.

Q.3. Can businesses that are currently working with DOE national labs apply to SBV?

A.3. Vouchers cannot be used to extend the scope of work on existing projects at DOE national labs. However, as long as there is no overlap with the scope of an existing agreement, companies are eligible to receive vouchers in addition to previous or ongoing projects with a participating lab.

Q.4. Businesses are not able to request assistance that is available in the private sector. What are some effective ways to certify that the Request for Assistance (RFA) focuses only on unique DOE national lab capabilities?

A.4. The best way to learn about distinctive services offered by participating labs is to explore the Technologies page on the SBV website. For any additional questions, contact the lab point of contact for your program area or connect via email at info@sbv.org.


REGISTRATION AND APPLICATION

Q.1. Once registered, how long do I have to submit my request?

A.1. Each call is open for one month. Applicants have until the end of each call to submit applications.

Q.2. How should energy and environmental impacts be calculated in the RFA?

A.2. Requestors are free to express energy and environmental impacts in any manner, using units of measure applicable to each technology area. For example, cost savings for a solar SBV may be relayed in $/watt or cents/kWh. Greenhouse gas emissions are typically reported in metric tons, an international unit of measurement equal to approximately 2,200 pounds.

Q.3. Can an interested small business work with a DOE national lab to develop a Request for Assistance (RFA) submission?

A.3. No. Small businesses cannot work directly with a participating DOE national lab to develop their RFA submissions. However, small businesses can talk with the labs to explore how the labs can meet their needs. Find out more about each technology area and contact a technology area point of contact to explore options for partnering with a lab that will help meet your needs.

Q.4. Can an interested small business request a Letter of Support from a DOE national lab?

A.4. No. Because participating labs are engaged in program implementation and will perform the work downstream, a letter of support could result in the appearance of a conflict of interest.

Q.5. Can I include confidential or proprietary information in my Request for Assistance (RFA)?

A.5. Do not include any trade secrets, confidential, or proprietary information in the RFA or in supporting documentation (including resumes). The federal government is not liable for the disclosure or use of any information contained in the RFA or in supporting document (including resumes).


PROCESS

Q.1. If a submission is not awarded, can an applicant resubmit for subsequent rounds? Are modifications allowed in subsequent rounds?

A.1. Small businesses may resubmit in subsequent rounds as long as they were not awarded the full allocation ($300,000) in previous rounds. Modifications are allowed in subsequent rounds.

Q.2. Will all requests for assistance receive written feedback?

A.2. Yes, requestors will receive feedback.

Q.3. Will the awarded topics be publicly available? Will SBV applications be treated as confidential and read only by review committee members or will they be distributed more widely or made public? I know the instructions on the SBV website say not to include proprietary information in the application, but I ask because we would still prefer that any application we submit be treated as confidential and only be read by those who are reviewing it.

A.3. Following each call, SBV will publicize a list and short description of each voucher recipient, as well as a summary of remaining funding, by program area. Only lab personnel, merit reviewers, and/or DOE staff will read the submitted requests.


IDENTIFYING A DOE NATIONAL LAB AND PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR

Q.1. Do I need to identify a specific DOE national lab and investigator?

A.1. Applicants are not required to identify a specific DOE national lab or investigator. Unless otherwise specified, applicants are matched with participating labs in the review process. In this process, reviewers align requests with the national lab best-suited to complete the requested work.

Q.2. Can I request to do work at any DOE national lab?

A.2. Select national labs in the DOE system are available to receive vouchers. If you have a preference for working with a specific DOE national lab for geographic or other reasons, please indicate that in your request for assistance. More information about which DOE national labs are available by technology area can be viewed within each of the technology area description pages on the SBV website.

Q.3. Where can I research the DOE national lab capabilities that could provide assistance to my small business?

A.3 On the Technology Areas page of the SBV website, you will find more information about the funding available by technology area and the participating labs offering capabilities to small businesses in those areas.

Q.4. Does work have to be done at one of the lead SBV DOE national labs?

A.4. No, lead labs need not complete all voucher work. Visit sbv.org and click on individual technology blocks to see the DOE national labs that are participating in each technology area.


CONTRACTS

Q.1. What contractual agreements will be used for SBV projects?

A.1. DOE has approved a fast-tracked Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) (PDF | MS Word) and a Technical Assistance Pilot Agreement (TAPA) (PDF | MS Word) for these projects. Using these agreements expedites the approval and execution process. These agreements also cover the terms for your proprietary information and intellectual property. Please refer to the Notice of Opportunity for more information.

Q.2. How do SBV contracts address the production and protection of intellectual property?

A.2. Intellectual property generated by small businesses—whether in connection with an SBV project or developed in advance—remains with the small business. If intellectual property is generated in collaboration with the labs, each party has the right to retain the titles to its subject inventions. By extension, a joint invention would be jointly owned, with each party retaining an undivided interest in the subject invention.

Q.3. Is it possible to commercialize a technology created by the DOE national lab after the voucher is executed?

A.3. If a participating lab invents something new during the work for SBV, businesses can secure a royalty-free, non-exclusive license for the intellectual property. If warranted, businesses can negotiate an exclusive license at the end of the engagement.

Q.4. Is it possible during SBV work to combine products created by a third party (with intellectual property) to create new intellectual property?

A.4. If you create a product that contains third-party intellectual property, you must negotiate with the intellectual property owner to manufacture a new product. It is up to the applicant to secure the rights to manufacture their product.

Q.5. Do I need to put a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) in place when negotiating the scope of work for my voucher?

A.5. Participating DOE national labs prefer to scope the project without any proprietary information, alleviating the need for an NDA. The standard SBV agreements include protection of the information that is supplied to the lab during the scope of work negotiation. After an agreement is executed, labs will consider putting an NDA in place if necessary. Please do not include trade secrets, confidential, or proprietary information in the request for assistance (RFA) or in supporting information (including resumes). The federal government is not liable for the disclosure or use of any information contained in the RFA or in supporting documentation (including resumes).

Q.6. Are there any contractual limitations regarding publicity in SBV?

A.6. Under the contracts provided, there is a provision that participating DOE national labs cannot endorse products of services created under SBV. As such, participants are asked to refrain from using names or trademarks when promoting the program. Generally, factual statements describing the work are approved, though if a name is used, the contract requires previous approval.

Q.7. If my business already has CRADA in place with one of the participating DOE national labs, do I need to sign another for SBV?

A.7. Yes. There should be no overlap in the scope of work between an existing CRADA and your agreement under SBV. These will need to be separate agreements.

Q.8. By signing these agreements, is my company subject to a federal audit?

A.8. No.

Q.9. What obligations do I have following the completion of this voucher?

A.9. Participants are expected to comply with certain reporting requirements outlined in the Notice of Opportunity. This process is managed by an external evaluator and requires a 30-minute annual web survey for five years.

Q.10. Can the terms of the TAPA and CRADA agreements be negotiated?

A.10. No. These agreements are nonnegotiable.


COST SHARE AND BUDGET

Q.1 How can I account for the 20% cost share? Is cash the only method?

A.1. Cost share can be provided through a variety of methods, including cash or in-kind efforts. In-kind contributions can include a number of costs directly related to the execution of the small business voucher (e.g., staff salaries, equipment, shipping, travel, subcontracting, cost of material, product manufacturing, etc.). Refer to the Notice of Opportunity document for more information on allowable cost share.

Q.2. Is the 20% cost share required up front?

A.2. Cost share is calculated at the beginning of the agreement. After the statement of work is created, the participating DOE national lab(s) will provide an incremental payment schedule.

Q.3. Can funding be taken from other federal awards, such as Small Business Innovation Research funding, to be used as an in-kind contribution in SBV?

A.3. Federal funding, even if from another agency, cannot be used as cost share. For example, if DOE is providing funding to you to develop a device, the cost incurred to develop that device is not allowed as cost share on the SBV project. However, if a federal agency funded you to develop the device, the cost incurred is allowable as cost share.

Q.4. My interest pool is covered by federal funds, and some prizes were funded by the federal government in the past. If there is a profit fee on a project, how can I make sure that I provide non-federal match?

A.4. This should be addressed in the negotiation phase once a voucher is approved. The use of a profit fee is potentially allowable, but warrants a specific discussion (which will happen in negotiations).

Q.5. Would participating DOE national labs be willing to review applications that demonstrate public/private partnerships? For instance, if a small business were to partner with a public university in support of one area of technology, would such a partnership be allowed under SBV?

A.5. Yes. Keep in mind that these types of partnerships may contribute to the 20% cost-share requirement (as long as the partner is not utilizing federal funding to support the SBV work).

Q.6. How should I calculate cost share?

A.6. Company cost share must be at least 20% of the total project cost (i.e., company cost/(company cost + federal cost) > 20%). If selected, cost share will be confirmed during the negotiation stage when the budget for the voucher is developed with a DOE national lab. Please describe the types of cost share your company can provide, including a range of cost share values by item. Note: Federally funded awards may not be used to provide cost share. For more information on allowable cost share and overall budget estimates, please refer to document titled "SBV Notice of Opportunity for Technical Assistance from DOE National Laboratories."


STATEMENT OF WORK

Q.1. How detailed do my answers in the RFA need to be?

A.1. Provide as much specificity and technical detail as you can to allow the merit review committee and lab staff to fully understand your request and your requirements from the lab.

Q.2. Can company employees carry out work at the DOE national lab, or does the work have to be done by lab scientists?

A.2. All SBV-funded work will be performed by staff at the participating national lab. Small business personnel can work in a lab as part of the cost-share requirement if space is available.

Q.3. How much do the vouchers provide?

A.3. The scope of work for each voucher depends heavily on the technology area and implementing lab. In general, a $50,000 voucher will provide approximately six weeks of service, and a $300,000 project provides access to one full-time employee for 12 months.

Q.4. Are the funding amounts or limits by technologies locked, or can monies be shifted among different technologies if an application warrants additional funding?

A.4. Funding cannot be shifted between two different technology areas, such as bioenergy and solar. DOE technology offices have discretion over how funding is allocated among program elements when multiple technology areas are involved in a project.

Q.5. If the project requires input from an outside contractor, can the voucher pay for that?

A.5. No, SBV does not allow for any subcontracting with voucher funds. However, external inputs directly related to the scope of work may be considered part of the applicant's in-kind contribution.


SCHEDULE

Q.1. When does SBV accept Requests for Assistance (RFA)?

A.1. Round 3 is now closed. Please visit sbv.org regularly for news regarding upcoming rounds. We anticipate having another round in fiscal year 2017.

Q.2. Are funds equally distributed in each round?

A.2. No.

Q.3. If we receive funding through SBV, can we reapply in future rounds?

A.3. Yes; however, the total vouchers awarded to any single small business will not exceed $300,000 in value.

Q.4. What happens if the project cannot be executed in time with the budget allowed?

A.4. Generally, SBV recipients agree to indemnify DOE and its national labs if a participating lab does not execute the project in the timeframe desired. Refer to each SBV agreement for further details.

Q.5. If rejected, will names be automatically reentered or do businesses need to reapply?

A.5. Businesses must resubmit each round for SBV consideration.

Important Dates

Round 1: CLOSED

Round 2: CLOSED

Round 3: CLOSED

Important Information

  • Download the Notice of Opportunity: Request for Assistance (RFA)
    (PDF | MS Word)
  • Download the Request for Assistance (RFA) Template
    (PDF | MS Word)
  • Download Round 3 fact sheet (PDF)
  • Download Round 3 infographic (PDF)
  • Download Summary Slide (PPT)
  • Download Additional Questions (Excel)

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