The Lab-to-Market (L2M) subcommittee of the National Science and Technology Council’s Committee on the Science and Technology Enterprise is launching a $325,000 prize competition to highlight successful examples of innovation ecosystems, particularly existing resources that support underrepresented communities or remarkable responses to the pandemic environment. The prize competition will also recognize the most impactful ideas for using prize funds to develop strong connections and support within the research and development (R&D) innovation ecosystem.
The Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Office of Innovation and Technology will be the Prize Administrator. To compete, applicants must submit a ten-slide presentation and a 90-second video to the submission portal at http://bit.ly/l2m-prize (opens September 30, 12:00 PM ET). The total prize purse is $325,000 to be divided in cash prizes of $10,000 or $25,000 each.
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Download the full official rules document.
Submit starting September 30,12:00 PM ET.
Submission portal opens September 30,12:00 PM ET.
Submission deadline is October 14, 6:00 PM ET.
The Prize Administrator may select multiple cash prize awardees in all categories, to total up to $325,000.
- "Super Connector" - Prizes of $10,000 for current efforts successfully including networks of underrepresented communities in the R&D innovation ecosystem.
- "Ecosystem Responder - Prizes of $10,000 for timely and effective responses to the pandemic environment.
- "Visionary" - Prizes of $25,000 for the most creative and actionable ideas that build an inclusive R&D innovation ecosystem.
Submissions from the same applicant to multiple categories may be accepted, however, applicants are limited to receiving one prize award from this competition. If an applicant makes it into the final round in multiple categories, the Prize Administrator and select judges may contact the applicant regarding final category selection.
Each cash award will be disbursed in a single payment. Appropriated funds will be used for the cash awards.
The R&D innovation ecosystem describes the complex community of participants and resources needed to develop and commercialize technology. This ecosystem includes the people (students, faculty, industry researchers, investors, et al) that make up the institutional entities (universities, businesses, funding agencies, venture capital firms, state and local economic development organizations, entrepreneur support organizations, etc.), material resources (funding, equipment, facilities, etc.), and the relationships among these interconnected actors. These ecosystems may operate at different geographic levels (e.g. city, regional, national) and within multiple sectors (e.g. health, energy, agriculture).
Entrepreneurs may lack knowledge about available ecosystem resources or have difficulty navigating and finding them, posing significant barriers to entry, and keeping the best minds and ideas from reaching their full potential. Additionally, resources and capital are not reaching all Americans evenly, and the economic impacts of COVID-19 could increase this inequality.
Connectivity and coordination across R&D innovation ecosystems is even more critical today to support recovery from potential COVID-19 impacts on high growth startups.
Ensuring that access to resources and capital are available to all Americans is essential in creating a robust and dynamic workforce with inclusive growth, and ensuring the benefits of entrepreneurship accrue across the nation.
The goals of this competition are:
- to highlight successful examples of R&D innovation ecosystems, particularly those that include underrepresented communities.
- to surface the most innovative practices or solutions to mitigate secondary impacts of COVID-19 on high growth startups.
- to enhance the connection and integration of Federal resources that support innovation ecosystems.
The Lab-to-Market (L2M) subcommittee of the National Science and Technology Council's Committee on the Science and Technology Enterprise leads the Federal government-wide implementation of theLab-to-Market Cross Agency Priority (L2M CAP) goal to improve the transition of Federally-funded R&D from the laboratory to the marketplace as part of the President's Management Agenda.
Key strategies include increasing engagement with private sector technology development experts and investors and supporting innovative tools and services for technology transfer. The technology transfer and high growth startup communities must make the most of their potential to shape the future in the COVID-19 environment.
The SBA serves on the L2M CAP goal team, as a resource and voice for small businesses. SBA empowers entrepreneurs and small business owners through programs and the support they need to start, grow or expand their businesses, or recover from disasters.
Eligibility and Teams
The competition is open to:
- Private entities (for-profits and non-profits), non-federal government entities such as states, counties, tribes, and municipalities, academic institutions, and individuals subject to the following requirements:
- Private entities must be incorporated in and maintain a primary place of business in the United States with majority domestic ownership and control.
- Academic institutions must be based in the United States.
- An individual prize Competitor (who is not competing as a member of a group) must be a United States citizen or a permanent resident and be 18 years old at time of submission.
- A group of individuals competing as one team may win, provided they meet the eligibility requirements for individual competitors.
The competition is not open to:
- Federal employees and contractors acting within the scope of their employment.
- Entities and individuals publicly banned from doing business with the U.S. government such as entities and individuals debarred, suspended, or otherwise excluded from or ineligible for participating in Federal programs.
Rules and Requirements
What to Submit
The following items constitute the submissions package and must be uploaded at the submission platform at http://bit.ly/l2m-prize.There is no cost to submit.
- Submission Summary Slides (not public)
- 90-second video (to be made public)
- Letters of Commitment or Support (optional)
Submission Slide Deck
You should address each of the following elements. The competition judges will score the submissions based on the content you provide. Slide deck should be submitted in PDF format.
Slide 1: Cover Page
Slide 2: Role in the Innovation Ecosystem
Slide 3: Challenge Statement
Slides 4-7: Past Efforts or Future Plans
Super Connector - successfully including networks of underrepresented communities in the R&D innovation ecosystem
Ecosystem Responder - timely and effective responses to the pandemic environment
Visionary - creative and actionable ideas that build an inclusive R&D innovation ecosystem
Slide 8: Partner Entities
Slide 9: Resources Leveraged
Slide 10: Additional Information at Competitor's Discretion
Video Narrative - (will be made public)
A video of not more than 90 seconds that:
Letters of Commitment or Support
Supporting Documentation (Optional)
How We Determine Winners
The Prize Administrator will assign subject matter expert judges to independently score the content of each submission. Competition judges will be Federal employees and non-Federal partners with relevant expertise. Each judge will serve on a volunteer basis. Competition judges will review submissions according to the evaluation criteria described below. Competition judges may not (a) have personal or financial interests in, or be an employee, officer, director, or agent of any entity in their review pool; or (b) have a familial or personal financial relationship with an individual who is a registered participant.
Submissions will be reviewed for eligibility and completeness. If a Competitor does not meet the eligibility criteria or does not provide the basic contact details and the information outlined for the submission slide deck, the submission will be deemed ineligible. Eligible submissions will be evaluated by a Selection Committee comprised of officials from the Lab-to-Market subcommittee and the SBA. Winners will be selected based on how well they address the criteria identified in this prize announcement.
In addition, in order to achieve nationwide distribution of prizes across the entire United States, the Prize Administrator may take the geographical dispersion of Competitors' project service areas into account when making award decisions. A submission that exceeds the minimum acceptable score and which scores more highly than other acceptable proposals may nevertheless be passed over for funding if that submission proposes to serve the same or substantially the same area or market as another acceptable submission that was selected for award.
Criteria for Super Connector and Ecosystem Responder Prizes
- Quality and Clarity of Submission - Is the submission well-articulated and tell a clear story? Does the submission provide clear responses to the prompts outlined in the prize rules?
- Alignment with Competition Goals - How well does the submission align with the stated goals of the prize competition and the broader Lab-to-Market initiative? Did the submission positively affect underrepresented groups in the R&D space within this ecosystem?
- Economic and Social Impacts - To what degree has the submission had a positive economic or social impact on the ecosystem? This can include new businesses, jobs created or saved, or other return on investment. To what degree has participation increased among underrepresented groups?
- Use of Federal Resources—Did the submission successfully integrate Federal data or resources?
Criteria for Visionary Prize
- Quality and Clarity of Submission— Is the submission well-articulated and tell a clear story? Does the submission provide clear responses to the prompts outlined in the prize rules?
- Ingenuity/Creativity - To what degree is the submission creative or incorporates new approaches to benefit their ecosystem?
- Alignment with Competition Goals—How well does the submission align with the stated goals of the prize competition and the broader Lab-to-Market initiative? Does the submission address the needs or otherwise positively affect underrepresented groups?
- Measurable Goals and Feasibility—How actionable and achievable are the proposed outcomes of the submission? Are clear metrics for success defined?
- Use of Partner Entities - Are the potential partner entities and their roles clearly and realistically defined within the submission? To what extent does the submission have the potential to effectively leverage ecosystem resources?
Interviews: The Selection Committee may decide to hold a short interview with a subset of the Competitors. The interviews would be held prior to the announcement of winners and would serve to help clarify questions the judges may have. Attending interviews is not required and interviews are not an indication of winning.
Final Determination: Final determination of winners by the Prize Administrator will take the competition judges' scores and the interview findings (if applicable) into account.
Announcement: Approximately 30-45 days after the contest closes, the Prize Administrator will notify winners before a public announcement.
Only submissions relevant to the goals of this program are eligible to compete. All the following statements must be true regarding each submission:
- All eligibility and submission requirements have been fulfilled.
- The Competitor articulates their role in the R&D innovation ecosystem.
- The proposed solution does not involve the lobbying of any federal, state, or local government.
- Submissions must not use SBA's logo or official seal in the submission and must not claim SBA endorsement.
The award of a prize in this competition does not constitute an endorsement of a specific entity, service or product by SBA or the Federal government.
Additional Terms and Conditions
Your submission for the Inclusive Innovation Ecosystem Prize is subject to the following terms and conditions:
You must upload the submission documents online at http://bit.ly/l2m-prize between September 30, 2020 12:00 PM ET, and October 14, 2020 at 6:00 PM ET. Late submissions or any other form of submission will be not be accepted.
You must include all required submission elements. The Selection Committee may disqualify your submission after an initial screening if you fail to provide all required submission elements. Competitors may be given an opportunity to rectify submission errors due to technical challenges that are immediately reported.
Your submission must be in English and in a format readable by Microsoft Word or Adobe PDF. Hand-written or scanned submissions will be disqualified.
Submissions will be disqualified if they contain any matter that, in the sole discretion of the Prize Administrator, is indecent, obscene, defamatory, libelous, lacking in professionalism, or demonstrates a lack of respect for people or life on this planet.
The Prize Administrator, when feasible, may give Competitors an opportunity to fix non-substantive mistakes or errors in their submission packages.
2. VERIFICATION FOR WINNER PAYMENTS
The Selection Committee will verify the identity of a participant selected to receive the prizes. Receiving a prize payment is contingent upon fulfilling all applicable rules, policies and requirements, including the requirements contained herein. SBA will notify winning participants using provided email contact information after the date that results are announced.
Each participant will be required to share a DUNS and have an active SAM account. A winning submission will be disqualified from the competition and receive no prize funds if: (i) The person/entity cannot be contacted; (ii) the person/entity fails to provide the information within the required time period; (iii) the notification is returned as undeliverable; or (iv) the submission or person/entity is disqualified for any other reason.
3. TEAMS AND SINGLE ENTITY AWARDS
The Prize Administrator will award a single dollar amount to the designated primary Competitor (the entity that acts as submitter) whether consisting of a single entity, or multiple entities. The primary Competitor is solely responsible for allocating any prize funds among its member Competitors as they deem appropriate.
4. SUBMISSION RIGHTS
By making a submission, and consenting to the rules of the contest, a Competitor is granting to SBA, and any other third parties supporting SBA in the contest, permission to use the submission consistent with the Rules of this Prize.
Portions of submissions that are marked as protected from public disclosure according to Section 10 will be treated accordingly. Potential uses of submissions include posting or linking to the non-protected portions of the submission on SBA or Lab-to-Market platforms, including the contest website, SBA/SBIR websites, and partner websites, and the inclusion of the submission in any other media, worldwide. The submission may be viewed by SBA, Lab-to-Market members, and judges for purposes of the contest including but not limited to screening and evaluation purposes.
By entering, Competitor represents and warrants that:
Competitor has not included third-party content (such as writing, text, graphics, artwork, logos, photographs, dialogue from plays, likeness of any third party, musical recordings, clips of videos, television programs or motion pictures) in or in connection with the submission, unless (i) otherwise requested by the Prize Administrator and/or disclosed by Competitor in the submission, and (ii) Competitor has either obtained the rights to use such third-party content or the content of the submission is in the public domain without any limitations on use;
Unless otherwise disclosed in the submission, the use thereof by Prize Administrator, or the exercise by Prize Administrator or others acting on its behalf of any of the rights granted by Competitor under these rules, does not and will not infringe or violate any rights of any third party or entity, including, without limitation patent, copyright, trademark, trade secret, defamation, privacy, publicity, false light, misappropriation, intentional or negligent infliction of emotional distress, confidentiality, or any contractual or other rights;
Competitor is not and will not conduct any activity pertaining to this prize competition that would infringe upon any intellectual property right of any third party, such as any patent, copyright, trade secret, or other intellectual property right; and that it has exercised reasonable efforts and diligence in making this representation and warranty. The foregoing representation and warranty shall be ongoing during the course of this competition and will be considered to have been made again and as of the date of each subsequent phase of the competition in which Competitor participates.
All persons who were engaged by the Competitor to work on the submission or who appear in the submission in any manner have: given Competitor their express written consent to submit the submission for exhibition and other use in any manner and in any and all media, whether now existing or hereafter discovered, throughout the world; and provided written permission to include their name, image or pictures in or with the submission (or if a minor who is not Competitor's child, Competitor must have the permission of their parent or legal guardian) and Competitor may be asked by the Prize Administrator to provide permission in writing.
Each Competitor represents and warrants that the Competitor is the sole author and copyright owner of the submission; that the submission is an original work of the participant or that the participant has acquired sufficient rights to use and to authorize others, including SBA, to use the submission, as specified throughout the rules, that the submission does not infringe upon any copyright or upon any other third party rights of which the participant is aware; and that the submission is free of malware. Additionally, by registering and entering a submission, each Competitor agrees to grant SBA an irrevocable, non-exclusive, worldwide, royalty-free license to use materials, concepts, and other similar items of intellectual property proposed in, or developed during operations conducted pursuant to, its submission for purposes consistent with the Agency's mission.
6. COMPETITION SUBJECT TO APPLICABLE LAW
This competition is being conducted by SBA pursuant to the government wide prize competition authority at 15 U.S.C. 3719 By participating in this competition, each competitor gives its full and unconditional agreement to the Official Rules and the related administrative decisions described in this notice, which are final and binding in all matters related to the competition. Competitors remain solely responsible for complying with all applicable federal laws, including licensing, export control, and nonproliferation laws, and related regulations. A competitor's eligibility for a prize award is contingent upon their fulfilling all requirements identified in this notice. Publication of this notice is not an obligation of funds on the part of SBA. SBA reserves the right to modify or cancel this competition, in whole or in part, at any time prior to the award of prizes.
The winners of these prizes (collectively, "Winners") will be featured on the SBA and Lab-to-Market websites.
By registering and entering a submission, each competitor consents to SBA's and its agents' use, in perpetuity, of its name, likeness, photograph, voice, opinions, and/or hometown and state information for promotional or informational purposes through any form of media, worldwide, without further payment or consideration.
Upon registration, all participants agree to assume and, thereby, have assumed any and all risks of injury or loss in connection with or in any way arising from participation in this contest or development of any submission. Upon registration, except in the case of willful misconduct, all participants agree to and, thereby, do waive and release any and all claims or causes of action against the federal government and its officers, employees and related entities for any and all injury and damage of any nature whatsoever (whether existing or thereafter arising, whether direct, indirect, or consequential and whether foreseeable or not), arising from their participation in the contest, whether the claim or cause of action arises under contract or tort.
Given this competition does not involve potentially hazardous activities or the use of government property, competitors are not required to obtain liability insurance or demonstrate financial resources to cover claims by a third party for death, bodily injury, or property damage or loss resulting from any activity it carries out in connection with its participation in this competition, or claims by the Federal Government for damage or loss to Government property resulting from such an activity.
9. RECORD RETENTION AND DISCLOSURE
All materials submitted to SBA as part of a submission become SBA records. Any confidential commercial information contained in a submission should be designated in writing at the time of submission.
Competitors will be notified of any Freedom of Information Act requests for their submissions in accordance with 29 C.F.R. § 70.26. Competitors may then have the opportunity to review materials and work with a FOIA representative prior to the release of materials.
By registering or submitting the submission package through the submission portal, you understand that such information will be transmitted to SBA and may be kept in a system of records. Such information will be used only to respond to you in matters regarding your submission and/or the competition unless you choose to receive updates or notifications about other competitions or programs from SBA on an opt-in basis.
Federal employees are subject to the non-disclosure requirements of a criminal statute, the Trade Secrets Act, 18 USC 1905. The Government may seek the advice of qualified non-Federal personnel. The Government may also use non-Federal personnel to conduct routine, nondiscretionary administrative activities. The respondents, by submitting their response, consent to SBA providing their submission to non-Federal parties. Non-Federal parties given access to submissions must be subject to an appropriate obligation of confidentiality prior to being given access.
The SBA and its agents are not responsible for:
- Any incorrect or inaccurate information, whether caused by Competitors, printing errors, or by any of the equipment or programming associated with or utilized in the competition;
- Technical failure of any kind, including, but not limited to malfunctions, interruptions or disconnections in phone lines or network hardware or software;
- Unauthorized human intervention in any part of the entry process or the competition;
- Technical or human error which may occur in the administration of the competition or the processing of entries; or
- Any injury or damage to persons or property which may be caused, directly or indirectly, in whole or in part, from Competitor's participation in the competition or receipt, use or misuse of any prize.
If for any reason a Competitor's submission is confirmed to have been erroneously deleted, lost, or otherwise destroyed or corrupted, the Competitor’s sole remedy is to submit another entry in the competition, provided it is submitted before the initial screening of entries is completed.
12. GENERAL CONDITIONS
SBA reserves the right to cancel, suspend, and/or modify the contest, or any part of it, at any time. If any fraud, technical failures, or any other factor beyond SBA's reasonable control impairs the integrity or proper functioning of the contest, as determined by SBA in its sole discretion, SBA may cancel the contest.
Although SBA indicates that it may select multiple winners for each category, SBA reserves the right to only select Competitors that are likely to achieve the goals of the program. If, in SBA’s determination, no Competitors are likely to achieve the goals of the program, SBA will select no Competitors to be winners and will award no prize money.
Participation constitutes each Competitor's full and unconditional agreement to the rules in this notice and administrative decisions which are final and binding in all matters related to the competition.
Frequently Asked Questions
Prize Competition and Funding
1. What is the maximum amount of prize money that will be awarded?
The maximum amount awarded across the three prize categories is $25,000. Winners of the Visionary prize competition will receive $25,000. The maximum for the other two categories, Super Connector and Ecosystem Responder, is $10,000.
2. Can you apply for any combination of awards or only one?
Yes, you can submit for multiple prize categories, although individuals, teams, or organizations submitting will not be able to win cash prizes for more than one category.
Since the judging criteria are different across prize categories, a highly-ranked submission in one prize category may not generate high rankings if submitted to other prize categories.
3. Are there any restrictions on how the prize money can be used? If we win, and would like to use the prize money to invest in companies, would that be allowed?
For the Super Connector and Ecosystem Responder prize categories, there are no restrictions on how the prizes of $10,000 should be spent. For the Visionary prize category, the expectation is that the prize purse of $25,000 would be used to carry out the proposed ideas, although there is no period of performance or formal reporting requirement after receipt of the prize award. This is a prize award, not a grant or contract. The competition managers may reach out to prize winners about their progress after the prize award.
4. How many prizes will be given out in each of the prize categories?
There will be at least one winner for each prize category, but there is no cap on the number of winners for each prize category. The maximum amount available for all winners across all three prize categories is $325,000. This amount will be divided among the winners of each prize category. Prize categories may have unequal number of prize winners and varied total prize purses. Depending on the strength of the submissions, there may be more winners in one category as compared to the others.
5. Might there be “honorable mentions” for great applications that do not make the final cut?
There is certainly a possibility of honorable mentions—submissions that will be recognized but not receive cash prizes.
6. Is this a one-time award, or will this award be open next year as well?
We do not know if the competition will occur next year or in future years, but the members of the National Science and Technology Council Lab-to-Market subcommittee plan to continue efforts to promote an inclusive innovation ecosystem, and the competition will inform the Federal government of demand for future offerings on this topic.
7. Are awards expected to be for entities that support SBIR and STTR R&D activities, or is general support activities for U.S.-based start-ups and small business acceptable?
This competition is not limited to support of SBIR and STTR activities. Though the SBA is the Prize Administrator, this prize competition is being conducted on behalf of the interagency Lab-to-Market subcommittee, which has an interest in broadly supporting R&D innovation ecosystems and the varied stakeholders.
8. What if we do not have a SAM.gov account? The SAM registration website says to allow 60 days to set up a SAM account. We have partners with SAM accounts, could we recruit them as a team member for the prize submission?
In order to receive the cash award, your organization must have an active SAM.gov account at the time of award. There is no cost to register with SAM.gov, though you will need a free DUNS Number and Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN) as well. Procurement Technical Assistance Centers (PTACs) are a federal resource that provides assistance for government contracting, so they are knowledgeable about required registrations (https://www.aptac-us.org/sam-registration/).
If you are still in process for registering with SAM.gov at the time of submission, this should not be a problem. Prizes will be announced approximately 30-45 days after the competition closes.
You may wish to partner with others that have SAM accounts as well if those partnerships will bolster your activities relevant to your prize submission.
9. Are nonprofits founded during the pandemic eligible to compete?
Yes. There is no eligibility requirement regarding the length of time the organization has been established, and teams or organizations can be new. One thing to keep in mind is that a SAM.gov account is required to receive the funding.
10. If an individual or organization has won prior SBA awards, does that preclude them from winning the prize?
No, whether you have previously won an SBA or other Federal award will not affect whether you can win this prize.
Prize Submission Package
11. In slides, would you rather have slides packed with words? Or more white space? Would it be as if we were giving a presentation?
There is flexibility in the slide design, and there is room for including graphics. Graphics are not necessary, but participants should carefully consider the quality and clarity of how the design meets the prize category’s judging criteria.
The slides will be read by a panel of judges. They will not be part of a formal presentation as part of the competition.
12. What should the 90 second video include?
The video is meant to complement and build upon the information in the slide deck. Although it should be clear and well presented, it does not need to have a professional level of polish. This video may be made public if you are selected as a winner.
13. Is the prize competition only for a new or planned initiatives or does the prize include enhancing or strengthening programs already in existence?
The prize competition has three prize categories, two of which are focused on existing activities—the Super Connector and Ecosystem Responder prizes—and one of which is focused on ideas for future initiatives, the Visionary prize.
14. Is there any assistance with writing prize submissions?
The prize team will not be providing direct assistance with the preparation of the slides or the video, but will be available to provide clarification. The prize team will host two office hours to answer any questions while the competition is open.
Gathering additional information and input to developing a submission, including reaching out to Federal agencies for information, is the responsibility of the applicant.
15. How many support letters do you recommend be included in submissions? Is a combination of support letters from private and public sectors allowed?
Up to five letters of support or commitment are allowed, each a maximum of one-page in length. Letter should be from relevant entities (public or private) and specifically address the strategy or context for the submission as it relates to the prize category. General letters of support or recommendation will be disregarded.
16. Who should support letters be addressed to?
They do not need to be addressed to anyone specific, but if desired, they may be addressed to Jennifer Shieh, Office of Investment and Innovation, U.S. Small Business Administration.
Scope of the Prize Categories
17. Do main beneficiaries need to be located in US?
Eligible organizations for the award must be located in the US. The prize is meant to benefit the US R&D ecosystem and economy, however, a submission may benefit others outside the US as well as domestic beneficiaries.
18. Does “Partner Entities” mean Federal Agencies or complementary ecosystem supporters?
Partner Entities refers to any stakeholder in the R&D innovation ecosystem and extends beyond Federal Agencies. There are a number of possibilities to impact the ecosystem beyond working directly with Federal Agencies. However, prize submitters should consider that one of the goals of the prize competition is to enhance the use of existing Federal resources.
19. For the Visionary prize category, will prizes only be given for submissions that have a direct connection to innovations or that have originated from Federal Agencies? Or are ideas that build a better ecosystem for small businesses to partner with Federal laboratories for an inclusive innovation ecosystem eligible?
The prize team encourages creativity and does not wish to limit the possibilities for submissions to the Visionary prize category. This prize category is not limited to working directly with a Federal laboratory, company, or a startup. Submissions may focus on resources and activities that will eventually trickle down to entrepreneurs and others in the innovation ecosystem but may not directly deal with the technology or entrepreneurs. The prize team encourages submitters to describe how their work relates to innovation ecosystems when discussing their roles and activities.
20. Regarding the target market, is the prize competition open to programs focused on high-school innovators?
The prize competition is open to all efforts that can help build an inclusive innovation ecosystem, which can include targeting innovators in early periods of their education, such as in high-school.