NASA SBIR/STTR 2021 Program Solicitation Details | 4. Method of Selection and Evaluation Criteria

4. Method of Selection and Evaluation Criteria

4.1 Access to Proprietary Data by Non-NASA Personnel

4.1.1 Non-NASA Reviewers

In addition to utilizing Government personnel in the proposal review process, NASA, at its discretion and in accordance with 1815.207-71 of the NASA FAR Supplement, may utilize individuals from outside the Government with highly specialized expertise not found in the Government. Any decision to obtain an outside evaluation shall take into consideration requirements for the avoidance of organizational or personal conflicts of interest and any competitive relationship between the prospective contractor or subcontractor(s) and the prospective outside evaluator. Any such evaluation will be under agreement with the evaluator that the information (data) contained in the proposal will be used only for evaluation purposes and will not be further disclosed.  

4.1.2 Non-NASA Access to Confidential Business Information

In the conduct of proposal processing and potential contract administration, the Agency may find it necessary to provide proposal access to other NASA contractor and subcontractor personnel. NASA will provide access to such data only under contracts that contain an appropriate NFS 1852.237-72 Access to Sensitive Information clause that requires the contractors to fully protect the information from unauthorized use or disclosure.

 

4.2 Phase I Proposals

NASA conducts a three-stage review process of all proposals to determine if the proposal can be moved forward to be evaluated and ranked on a competitive basis as follows:

  1. All proposals received by the published deadline will undergo an administrative review to determine if the proposal meets the requirements found in section 3, Proposal Preparation Instructions and Requirements. A proposal that is found to be noncompliant with the requirements in section 3 will be declined and no further evaluations will occur. The offeror will be notified of NASA’s decision to eliminate the proposal from consideration and the reasons for elimination.  
  2. Proposals that pass the administrative review will be screened to determine technical responsiveness to the subtopic of this solicitation. Proposals that are determined to be nonresponsive to the subtopic will be declined and no further evaluations will occur. The offeror will be notified that NASA declined the proposal and will receive written feedback. 
  • Note: Offerors are advised to be thoughtful in selecting a subtopic to ensure the proposal is responsive to the NASA need as defined by the subtopic. The NASA SBIR/STTR program will NOT evaluate a proposal under a different subtopic not selected by the firm.
  • Proposals determined to be responsive to the administrative requirements and technically responsive to the subtopic of this solicitation, as evidenced by the technical abstract and technical proposal, will be fully evaluated to determine the most promising technical and scientific approaches. Each proposal will be reviewed on its own merit.
  • NASA is under no obligation to fund any proposal or any specific number of proposals in a given subtopic. NASA also may elect to fund several, all, or none of the proposed approaches to the same subtopic.

    4.2.1 Evaluation Process

    Proposals shall provide all information needed for a complete evaluation. Evaluators will not seek additional information. NASA scientists and engineers will perform evaluations. Also, qualified experts outside of NASA (including industry, academia, and other Government agencies) may assist in performing evaluations as required to determine or verify the merit of a proposal. Offerors should not assume that evaluators are acquainted with the offeror, key individuals, or with any experiments or other information. Any pertinent references or publications should be noted in Part 5 of the technical proposal.

    4.2.2 Phase I Evaluation Criteria 

    NASA intends to select for award those proposals that offer the most advantageous research and development and delivers a technological innovation that contributes to NASA’s missions, provides societal benefit, and grows the U.S. economy. NASA will give primary consideration to the scientific and technical merit and feasibility of the proposal and its benefit to NASA interests. Each proposal will be evaluated and scored on its own merits using the factors described below:

    Factor 1: Scientific/Technical Merit and Feasibility

    The proposed R/R&D effort will be evaluated on whether it offers a clearly innovative and feasible technical approach to the described NASA problem area. Proposals must clearly demonstrate relevance to the subtopic as well as to one or more NASA mission and/or programmatic needs. Specific objectives, approaches, and plans for developing and verifying the innovation must demonstrate a clear understanding of the problem and the current state of the art. The degree of understanding and significance of the risks involved in the proposed innovation must be presented.

    Factor 2: Experience, Qualifications, and Facilities 

    The technical capabilities and experience of the PI, project manager, key personnel, staff, and consultants and subcontractors, if any, are evaluated for consistency with the research effort and their degree of commitment and availability. The necessary instrumentation or facilities required must be shown to be adequate and any reliance on external sources, such as Government-furnished equipment or facilities, addressed (section 3.3.4, part 8). 

    Factor 3: Effectiveness of the Proposed Work Plan

    The work plan will be reviewed for its comprehensiveness, effective use of available resources, labor distribution, and the proposed schedule for meeting the Phase I objectives. The methods planned to achieve each objective or task should be discussed in detail. Please see Factor 5 for price evaluation criteria.

    STTR: The clear delineation of responsibilities of the SBC and RI for the success of the proposed cooperative R/R&D effort will be evaluated. The offeror must demonstrate the ability to organize for effective conversion of intellectual property into products and services of value to NASA and the commercial marketplace.


    Factor 4: Commercial Potential and Feasibility

    The evaluation of this factor will consider if the offeror has demonstrated their knowledge of NASA mission programs, other Government agencies and non-Government markets that could be applied to the proposed innovation. If known, offerors should indicate if there are any existing and projected commitments for funding of the innovation beyond Phase I and II. This can include investment, sales, licensing, and other indicators of commercial potential.

    Factor 5: Price Reasonableness

    The offeror’s cost proposal will be evaluated for price reasonableness based on the information provided in the Proposal Budget form. NASA will comply with the FAR and NASA FAR Supplement (NFS) to evaluate the fairness and reasonableness of the proposed price/cost. 

    The Contracting Officer shall submit a recommendation for award to the Source Selection Official (SSO) after completion of evaluation for price reasonableness and determination of responsibility.

    Scoring of Factors and Weighting

    Factors 1, 2, and 3 will be scored numerically, with Factor 1 worth 50 percent and Factors 2 and 3 each worth 25 percent. The sum of the scores for Factors 1, 2, and 3 will constitute the Technical Merit score. The evaluation for Factor 4, Commercial Potential and Feasibility, will be in the form of an adjectival rating (Excellent, Very Good, Good, Fair, or Poor). For Phase I proposals, Technical Merit is more important than Commercial Merit. Factors 1 to 4 will be evaluated and used in the selection of proposals for negotiation. Factor 5 will be evaluated and used in the award decision, i.e., NASA will only make an award when the price is fair and reasonable.

    4.2.3 Prioritization

    In prioritizing proposals recommended for negotiations, NASA will also consider other factors, including recommendations from the program, centers, and mission directorates regarding such things as overall NASA priorities, program balance, and available funding. Programmatic balance considerations may include first-time awardees/participants, historically underrepresented communities, geographic distribution, balance across ideation/point solutions/market stimulation, and mission directorate/center balance. 

    4.2.4 Selection 

    Proposals recommended for negotiations will be forwarded to the SBIR/STTR PMO for analysis and presented to the Source Selection Official (SSO) and mission directorate representatives. The SSO has the final authority for choosing the specific proposals for contract negotiation. Each proposal selected for negotiation will be evaluated for cost/price reasonableness, the terms and conditions of the contract will be negotiated, and a responsibility determination made. The Contracting Officer will advise the SSO on matters pertaining to cost reasonableness, responsibility, and known past performance issues. 

    The list of proposals selected for negotiation will be posted on the NASA SBIR/STTR website (http://sbir.nasa.gov). All firms will receive a formal notification letter. A Contracting Officer will negotiate an appropriate contract to be signed by both parties before work begins.

    4.2.5 I-Corps 

    For awardees invited to submit an I-Corps proposal pursuant to section 3.3.6.2, NASA will provide a programmatic assessment of firms based on the following criteria:

    • Proposed team members demonstrate a commitment to the requirements of the I-Corps program.
    • The proposed team includes the proper composition and roles as described in the proposal requirements.
    • The proposal defines that the small business is at a stage that fits the goals of the program and aligns with the NASA SBIR/STTR program goals.
    • The proposal demonstrates that there is potential for commercialization in both NASA and non-NASA markets.

    Based on these assessments, STTR offerors will be selected to participate in phone interviews conducted by the NASA SBIR/STTR PMO and the NSF-provided I-Corps instructors to determine the dynamics of the teams and gauge their level of commitment to meeting requirements for the full I-Corps cohort. NASA will make the final selections for I-Corps based upon its initial assessments of the I-Corps proposals for the SBIR boot camps and the assessments of the phone interviews for the STTR cohorts.

    NASA anticipates a total of approximately 35 SBIR/STTR firms will be selected for participation in the I-Corps program for Phase I.

    4.2.6 Technical and Business Assistance (TABA)

    NASA conducts a separate review of all Phase I offeror requests for TABA after the SSO makes the final selection of projects to enter into negotiation for a Phase I contract. The SBIR/STTR PMO conducts the initial evaluation of the TABA request to determine if the request meets the requirements found in section 3.3.13 and the statute. The Contracting Officer makes the final determination to allow TABA funding under the contract.

    The review of Phase I TABA requests will include the following:

    • A review to determine if the awardee will use the funding to develop a Phase II TABA Needs Assessment and a Phase II Commercialization and Business Plan and/or if there are additional services being requested.
    • A review of the vendor(s) expertise and knowledge of providing technical and business assistance services to develop and complete a TABA Needs Assessment, a Commercialization and Business Plan, or other proposed TABA services.
    • A review of the costs to be provided to the TABA vendor(s).
    • Proposed plans to submit a deliverable summarizing the outcome of the TABA services with expected supporting information.
    • Verification that TABA costs are reflected in the budget forms.

    4.3 Phase II Proposals

    NASA conducts a two-stage review process of all Phase II proposals to determine if the proposal can be moved forward to be evaluated and ranked on a competitive basis as follows:

    1. All proposals received by the published deadline will undergo an administrative review to determine if the proposal meets the requirements found in section 3, Proposal Preparation Instructions and Requirements. Proposals that are found to be noncompliant with the requirements in section 3 will be eliminated from consideration. NASA will notify the offeror that their proposal has been eliminated and will provide the reason. 
    2. Proposals determined to be responsive to the administrative requirements will be technically evaluated to determine the most promising technical and scientific approaches. 

    Each proposal will be reviewed on its own merit. NASA is under no obligation to fund any proposal or any specific number of proposals in a given subtopic. It also may elect to fund several, all, or none of the proposed approaches to the same subtopic.

    4.3.1 Evaluation Process 

    Proposals shall provide all information needed for a complete evaluation. Evaluators will not seek additional information. NASA scientists and engineers will perform evaluations. Also, qualified experts outside of NASA (including industry, academia, and other Government agencies) may assist in performing evaluations as required to determine or verify the merit of a proposal. Offerors should not assume that evaluators are acquainted with the offeror, key individuals, or with any experiments or other information. Any pertinent references or publications should be noted in Part 5 of the technical proposal.

    4.3.2 Phase II Evaluation Criteria 

    NASA intends to select for award those proposals that offer the most advantageous research and development and deliver technological innovations that contributes to NASA’s missions, provides societal benefit, and grows the U.S. economy. NASA will give primary consideration to the scientific and technical merit and feasibility of the proposal and its benefit to NASA interests. Each proposal will be evaluated and scored on its own merits using the factors described below:

    Note: Past performance will not be a separate evaluation factor but will be evaluated under Factors 1 (with respect to performance in Phase I) and 4 (with respect to commercialization past performance, as applicable) below.

    Factor 1: Scientific/Technical Merit and Feasibility

    The proposed R/R&D effort will be evaluated on its originality, the feasibility of the innovation, and potential technical value. In addition, past performance of Phase I will be evaluated to determine the degree to which Phase I objectives were met, and whether the Phase I results indicate a Phase II project is appropriate. The evaluators may review the Phase I final technical report to verify the Phase I results.

    Factor 2: Experience, Qualifications, and Facilities 

    The technical capabilities and experience of the PI or project manager, key personnel, staff, and consultants and subcontractors, if any, are evaluated for consistency with the research effort and their degree of commitment and availability. The necessary instrumentation or facilities required must be shown to be adequate and any reliance on external sources, such as Government-furnished equipment or facilities, addressed (section 3.4.4, Part 8).

    Factor 3: Effectiveness of the Proposed Work Plan

    The work plan will be reviewed for its comprehensiveness, effective use of available resources, labor distribution, and the proposed schedule for meeting the Phase II objectives. The methods planned to achieve each objective or task should be discussed in detail. The proposed path beyond Phase II for further development and infusion into a NASA mission or program will also be reviewed. Please see Factor 5 for price evaluation criteria.

    STTR: The clear delineation of responsibilities of the SBC and RI for the success of the proposed cooperative R/R&D effort will be evaluated. The offeror must demonstrate the ability to organize for effective conversion of intellectual property into products and services of value to NASA and the commercial marketplace.

     Factor 4: Commercialization and Business Planning: The proposal will be evaluated for the commercial potential and feasibility of the proposed innovation and associated products and services as described in Part 7. Evaluation of the commercialization and business plan and the overall proposal will include consideration of the following areas:

    1. Commercial Potential—Quantitative Market Analysis: This includes assessment of
      1. The market segmentation and the commercial Total Addressable Market (TAM).
      2. The proposed innovation in terms of target customers (e.g., NASA, other Federal agency, commercial enterprise).
      3. The competitive landscape, by identifying potential competitors.
    2. Commercial Intent—Value Proposition: This includes assessing
      1.  The commercial development plan by providing a development timeline to bring the innovation to market.
      2. The applicable business model (spin-out, license, OEM, etc.) the offeror would use to bring the innovation to market.
      3. The risks to the commercial development plan and what mitigations, if any, can be taken over a reasonable period of time to lessen the risks.  
    3. Commercial Capability—Pro Forma Financial Projections: This includes assessment of
      1. The current and future company capitalization efforts.
      2. As applicable, the description of the approach, path to market, and revenues from past commercialization(s) resulting from SBIR/STTR awards disclosed in the CMS.
    4. Intellectual Property (IP): This includes assessment of
      1. How the offeror will protect the IP that results from the innovation.
    5. Assistance and Mentoring: This includes assessment of
      1. The existing and future business relationships in terms of any formal partnerships, joint ventures, or licensing agreements with other companies/organizations.
      2. The plans for securing needed technical or business assistance through mentoring, partnering, or through arrangements with state assistance programs, SBDCs, Federally-funded research laboratories, Manufacturing Extension Partnership centers, Federal programs, or other assistance providers.
    6. Capital Commitments Addendum: This includes assessment of
      1. Any letters of commitment describing follow-on funding, product sales, or matching funding to be provided for a future Phase II/E application.
      2. Letter of intent or evidence of negotiations to provide funding should the Phase II project be successful and the market need still exists.
      3. A specific plan to secure Phase III funding.

    Factor 5: Price Reasonableness

    The offeror’s cost proposal will be evaluated for price reasonableness based on the information provided in the Proposal Budget form. NASA will comply with the FAR and NASA FAR Supplement (NFS) to evaluate the proposed price/cost to be fair and reasonable. 

    The Contracting Officer shall submit a recommendation for award to the SSO after completion of evaluation for price reasonableness and determination of responsibility.

    Scoring of Factors and Weighting

    Factors 1, 2, 3, and 4 will be scored numerically, with Factor 1 worth 45 percent, Factors 2 and 3 each worth 25 percent, and Factor 4 worth five percent. The sum of the scores for Factors 1, 2, 3, and 4 will constitute the Technical Merit score. Factors 1 to 4 will be evaluated and used in the selection of proposals for negotiation. Factor 5 will be evaluated as part of the award decision, i.e., NASA will only make award when the price is fair and reasonable.

    4.3.3 Prioritization

    In prioritizing proposals recommended for negotiations, NASA will also consider other factors, including recommendations from the program, centers, and mission directorates regarding such things as overall NASA priorities, program balance, and available funding. Programmatic balance considerations may include first-time awardees/participants, historically underrepresented communities, geographic distribution, balance across ideation/point solutions/market stimulation, and mission directorate/center balance.

    4.3.4 Selection 

    Proposals recommended for negotiations will be forwarded to the SBIR/STTR PMO for analysis and presented to the SSO and mission directorate representatives. The SSO has the final authority for choosing the specific proposals for contract negotiation. Each proposal selected for negotiation will be evaluated for cost/price reasonableness. After completion of evaluation for cost/price reasonableness and a determination of responsibility, the Contracting Officer will submit a recommendation for award to the SSO.

    The list of proposals selected for negotiation will be posted on the NASA SBIR/STTR website (http://sbir.nasa.gov). All firms will receive a formal notification letter. A Contracting Officer will negotiate an appropriate contract to be signed by both parties before work begins.

    4.3.5 Technical and Business Assistance (TABA)

    NASA conducts a separate review of all requests for TABA after the SSO makes the final selection of projects to enter into negotiation for a Phase II contract. This process consists of the SBIR/STTR PMO conducting the initial evaluation of the TABA request to determine if the request meets the requirements found in section 3.4.14 and the statute. The Contracting Officer makes the final determination to allow TABA funding to be used under the contract.

    The review of Phase II TABA requests will include the following: 

      • A review to determine if the awardee provided a Phase II TABA Needs Assessment that describes the specific services being requested.
      • A review of the vendor(s) expertise and knowledge of providing technical and business assistance services as described in TABA Needs Assessment and the vendor qualification statements.
      • A review of the costs to be provided to the TABA vendor(s).
      • Proposed plans to submit the two required deliverables summarizing the outcome of the TABA services with expected supporting information.
      • Verification that TABA costs are reflected in the budget forms.

       

      4.4 Notification and Feedback to Unsuccessful Offerors

      After Phase I and Phase II selections for negotiation have been announced, a notification will be sent to the Small Business Official designated in the proposal according to the processes described below.

      Note: Due to the competitive nature of the program and limited funding, recommendations to fund or not fund a proposal will be final, and the decision cannot be contested by the offeror. Any notification or feedback provided to the offeror is not an opportunity to reopen selection decisions or obtain additional information regarding the final decision. Applicants are encouraged to use the written feedback as a way to understand the outcome of their proposal review and to develop plans to strengthen future proposals.

      Unsuccessful Phase II offerors cannot resubmit their unsuccessful Phase II proposal to a future Phase II solicitation.

      4.4.1 Phase I Feedback

      For Phase I, NASA uses a two-stage process to notify offerors of the outcome of their proposal.

          1. At the time of the public selection announcement, the Small Business Official will receive an email indicating the outcome of the proposal.
          2. NASA will automatically email proposal feedback to the designated Small Business Official within 60 days of the announcement of selection for negotiation. If you have not received your feedback by this time, contact the NASA SBIR/STTR Program Support Office at sbir@reisystems.com.
      4.4.2 Phase II Feedback

      For Phase II, NASA uses a two-stage process to notify offerors of the outcome of their proposal.

        1. At the time of the public selection announcement, the Small Business Official will receive an email indicating the outcome of the proposal.
        2. Per the requirements in the email notification and this solicitation, offerors must send a feedback request via email to the NASA SBIR/STTR Program Support Office at sbir@reisystems.com within 60 days after the selection announcement. Late requests will not be honored.