Frequently Asked Questions
Q.1 What is the Small Business Vouchers Pilot (SBV)?
A.1 SBV is a pilot program sponsored by the Department of Energy's (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) National Lab Impact Initiative. The goal of the program is to increase engagement between the U.S. small business community and DOE's national laboratories.
Q.2 How do the vouchers work?
A.2 Small businesses operating in the clean energy sector can request assistance from a national lab. If DOE accepts the request, a Small Business Voucher is issued. The voucher is like a coupon and allows the applicant to access a unique skill or facility at a lab to bring clean energy technologies to market. The funding represented by the voucher will not be provided to the applicant.
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 for each program area varies based on available funding.
Q.4 How do I submit a Request for Assistance (RFA)?
A.4 To submit an RFA, follow the steps on the process page.
Q.1 Who is eligible to receive assistance in SBV?
A.1 To qualify for vouchers, businesses must have fewer than 500 fulltime employees, be incorporated as for-profits, and be based in the United States with a majority US ownership. Details on eligibility rules can be found under the Eligibility tab on the sbv.org website.
Q.2 Are businesses incorporated in U.S. territories eligible to receive vouchers?
A.2 Business incorporated in the any of the 50 states, US territories or possessions are able to receive vouchers. 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 the Labs apply to SBV?
A.3 Vouchers cannot be used to extend the scope of work on existing projects at the 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 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 lab capabilities?
A.4 The best way to learn about distinctive lab services is to explore the lab pages, here on the sbv.org website. For any additional questions, contact the lab point of contact for your program area or connect via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
REGISTRATION & APPLICATION
Q.1 How long do I have to submit my request, once registered?
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/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 lab to develop a Request for Assistance (RFA) submission?
A.3 No. Small businesses cannot work directly with a National Lab to develop their RFA submission. However, small businesses can talk with the Labs about 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 laboratory?
A.4 No. Since labs are engaged in the implementation of the pilot, and will be performing 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 in my Request for Assistance?
A.5 No. Do not include any trade secrets, confidential or proprietary information in the Request for Assistance or in supporting documentation (including resumes). The U.S. Government is not liable for the disclosure or use of any information contained in the Request for Assistance or in supporting document (including resumes).
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 publically 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. Submitted requests will only be read by lab personnel, merit reviewers and/or DOE staff.
IDENTIFYING A LAB/PI
Q.1 Do I need to identify a specific lab and investigator?
A.1 Applicants are not required to identify a specific lab or investigator. Unless otherwise specified, applicants are matched to labs in the review process. In this process, reviewers align requests with the best-suited laboratory to complete the work requested.
Q.2 Can I request to do work at any national laboratory?
A.2 If you have a preference for working with a specific national lab for geographic or other reasons, please indicate that in your request for assistance. Selected national laboratories in the DOE system are available to receive vouchers. More information about which labs are available by technology area can be viewed within each of the technology area description pages on the sbv.org website.
Q.3 Where can I research the DOE national laboratory capabilities that could provide assistance to my small business?
A.3 Click on the Technology Areas tab sbv.org website. There, you will find more information about the funding available by technology area and the labs that are offering capabilities to small businesses in those areas.
Q.4 Does work have to be done at one of the lead labs?
A.4 Lead labs will not necessarily perform all voucher work in the technology area that they are leading. Lead labs simply administer the SBV Pilot. Many labs are participating in the SBV Pilot. Visit sbv.org and click on each technology page to see the labs that are participating in each technology area.
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. The use of these agreements will expedite 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 / protection of intellectual property (IP)?
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 title to its subject inventions. By extension, a joint invention would be jointly owned with each party retaining an undivided interest in the joint subject invention.
Q.3 Is it possible to commercialize technology created by the labs after the voucher is executed?
A.3 If a national lab invents something new in the work for the SBV Pilot, businesses can secure a royalty free, non-exclusive license for the IP. If warranted, businesses can negotiate an exclusive license at the end of the engagement.
Q.4 In the SBV pilot, is it possible to combine products created by a third party (with IP) to create new intellectual property?
A.4 If you create a product that contains third-party IP, you would have to make an arrangement with the IP 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 Labs prefer to scope to 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 a non-disclosure agreement in place if necessary. Please also note that trade secrets, confidential or proprietary information should not be included in the Request for Assistance or in supporting information (including resumes). The U.S. government is not liable for the disclosure or use of any information contained in the Request for Assistance 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 the labs cannot endorse products of services created under SBV. As such, participants are asked to refrain from using names or trademarks when promoting the pilot 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 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?
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 5 years.
Q.10 Can the terms of the TAPA / CRADA agreements be negotiated?
A.10 These agreements are nonnegotiable.
COST SHARE & BUDGET
Q.1 How can I account for the 20 percent 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 labs will provide an incremental payment schedule.
Q.3 Can funding be taken from other federal awards, such as Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) 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 the Department of Energy 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 State 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 laboratories 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 percent 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 National Laboratory. Please describe the types of cost share your company can provide with 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 understand what you desire from the lab.
Q.2 Can company employees carry out work at the lab or does the work have to be done by lab scientists?
A.2 All of the work funded through the SBV Pilot will be performed by lab staff. 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. The DOE Technology Offices have discretion over how fluid the funding is between subprogram elements.
Q.5 If the project requires input from an outside contractor, can the voucher pay for that?
A.5 No, the SBV Pilot does not allow for any subcontracting of voucher funds. However, external inputs directly related to the scope of work may be considered part of the applicant's in-kind contribution.
Q.1 When does SBV accept Requests for Assistance (RFA)?
A.1 Round 3 is now closed. We anticipate having another round in Fiscal Year 2017.
Q.2 Are funds equally distributed across the three calls?
Q.3 If we receive funding in the first call, can we reapply in the second? The third?
A.3 Yes, the total vouchers awarded will not exceed $300,000 in value to any single small business.
Q.4 What happens if the project cannot be executed in time with the budget allowed?
A.4 Generally, SBV recipients agree to indemnify the DOE and its national labs if a national lab does not execute the project in the timeframe desired. Refer to each of the SBV agreements for further details.
Q.5 If rejected, will names be automatically reentered or do businesses need to reapply?
A.5 Businesses must resubmit in subsequent rounds to be considered for a voucher.
Round 1: CLOSED
Round 2: CLOSED
Round 3: CLOSED
- 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)
- SBV Pilot: Round 3 Overview Webinar and Slide Presentation
- SBV Pilot: Round 2 Overview Webinar and Slide Presentation
- SBV Pilot: Round 2 Overview for the Manufacturing Extension Program (MEP) Webinar and Slide Presentation
- SBV Pilot: Round 1 Feedback Webinar