You’ve got your company’s team identified, and you’ve selected a qualified Principal Investigator for your SBIR project. Is that all you need? Chances are, you will have holes in your team’s expertise for your particular project and the grant reviewers will pick up on that as a point of criticism. This is where you need to look to others outside of your company to function as collaborators or consultants. Consultants typically take on a lesser role than collaborators, but offer their experience and knowledge as a resource for you. They can be available for phone calls and meetings to give you advice on the science behind your project, or they can be more involved in doing some of the non-research type work. Experts in the medical field, engineers, university professors, or even process manufacturers can function as consultants. One of the more useful consultants that we see are biostatisticians; so, unless you have someone on your team who is expert in analyzing your data, you may consider hiring on such a statistician.
Collaborators, by contrast, are more involved in the actual research of the project. They may have and submit their own budget to you for inclusion into your submission. They can include animal research facilities, university laboratories, or other companies, including large companies who are not themselves eligible for SBIR funds. Generally, collaborators have a bigger share of the work and are directly involved with some aspect of the actual research, whereas consultants give advice and provide services tangential to the research. In either case, they both can be paid off of the grant funds and you will need to include a letter of support/commitment from them in your proposal.