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Demystifying DoD funding: Lessons Learned from Those Who Started Where You Are Now

One of the goals of NCBiotech's April 15 Bio Defense Grantsmanship Training Event was to educate a wide variety of participants on how to get started with the pursuit of funding from the Department of Defense (DoD). Our invited panelists – all with successful DoD track records – offered up their “lessons learned” from their own DoD experiences.  Here are just a few of the great suggestions from our experienced panel:

Start small

  • Some labs get started with a small award or subcontract, but this establishes initial credibility and can be leveraged to win larger awards.

Be open to funding possibilities tangentially related to your interests

  • A successful track record with the DoD will be important for future awards.

  • Be open to research aimed at DoD needs that doesn’t fit neatly within your current portfolio. Several of our panelists noted that venturing outside their research comfort zone lead to new paths and opens new doors.

Attend DoD/military meetings

  • These conferences are great places to meet program managers, military scientists, military customers, etc. and learn about needs and programs areas. 
  • Be patient. It may take several conferences to make the right connection.
  • You can find out about meetings you wouldn’t otherwise be aware of. Examples include: Military Health System Research Symposium (MHSRS), National Capital Area TBI Research Symposium, ONR Undersea Medicine Review.
  • When attending civilian meetings, professional associations for example, note that there is often participation from military scientists and federal lab researchers. Connect with these people as they are in the same interest area as you but with a focus on military/defense.
  • Link up with someone "on the inside." Find a champion whose interests/needs coincide with yours.

Relationships are critical

  • Relationships and regular communication are very important to the DoD.
  • A PI will usually meet his/her DoD Program Manager (PM) several times in person over the course of the grant/contract.  In contrast, it’s not uncommon to never meet in person with a PM from the National Institutes of Health, Department of Education, foundations, etc.​

In addition to great content and advice from our speaker and panelists, the audience members represented a broad array of university faculty from across North Carolina as well as representatives from our small business community. This led to some valuable networking. While working with the DoD will not be an easy pursuit, when interests and technology align, it can be very worthwhile for both the researcher and the DoD.

Stay tuned for more informative events sponsored by NCBiotech’s Bio Defense Initiative.

Questions? Send me an email at marybeth_thomas@ncbiotech.org.

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