University Research and Entrepreneurial Skills Program

Program Office:                                Public Affairs Section, U.S. Embassy in Tbilisi, Georgia
Funding Opportunity Title:             University Research and Entrepreneurial Skills Program 2018

Funding Opportunity #:                   DOS-GEO-18-GR-001-042318

Announcement Type:                       Grant

Deadline for Applications:      June 15, 2018

AECCA                                              $300,000

Eligibility

Eligibility is limited to U.S. and Georgian non-profit/non-governmental organizations, universities and educational institutes, and private sector entities.  Applicants must have a demonstrated expertise in commercialization of university research, marketing research ideas, revenue raising, accounting, etc. Knowledge of the Georgian higher education research capacity and economic environment to establish relationships with Georgian universities, private sector businesses, and governmental organizations will be favored.

Cost Sharing or Matching

This program does not require cost sharing; however, in-kind contributions will be favorably considered.

Other Special Eligibility Criteria

None

Contact Information

  1. For questions relating to Grants.gov, please call the Grants.gov Contact Center at 1-800-518-4726.
  2. On program requirements of this solicitation, contact Grants Program Coordinator at the Public Affairs Section, U.S. Embassy in Tbilisi, Georgia, at TbilisiGrants@state.gov.
    Executive Summary

The Public Affairs Section (PAS) of the U.S. Embassy in Tbilisi, Georgia is pleased to announce an open competition for assistance awards through this Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) for a University Research and Entrepreneurial Skills Program. The Public Affairs Section (PAS) invites U.S. and Georgian universities, educational institutes, non-profit/non-governmental organizations, and private sector entities to submit proposals for a one- to two-year project to improve the capabilities of Georgian scholars and students in commercialization of university research and marketing ideas.

This project is meant to extend current research into the development process; foster entrepreneurial and innovative pursuits among Georgian professors, scholars, undergraduate, and graduate students; provide training in marketing, finance, revenue-raising, and small-business market-oriented sustainability; develop an ecosystem of knowledge transfer among Georgian universities that encourages entrepreneurial pursuits through the commercialization of research and ideas; and  provide the framework for a sustainable entrepreneurial skills program consisting of a Georgian and American university consortium with possible in-kind contribution(s) from private sector entities and/or non-governmental organizations.

The program also aims to develop ties between academia, government, and the private sector.

PAS will award approximately $300,000 for this one- to two-year project.

BACKGROUND

Twenty-five years after becoming an independent state, Georgia has implemented important and successful educational reforms.  Georgian academia no longer suffers from the kind of rampant corruption that was prevalent in the early days of independence, and strict accreditation and other standards have led to the closing of numerous questionable institutions.  Nevertheless, the Georgian higher education system is still influenced by Soviet models and the Georgian government has identified education reform as one of four priority areas on which it is engaging.

Georgian scholars publish at a low rate in comparison to other post-Soviet countries, and they have not yet made the leap, for the most part, to publish in Western or international journals, much less to adopt a system of blind peer review for Georgian journals.  Georgian institutes of higher learning do not have programs in place that promote or facilitate the transfer of technology or innovation coming from academia into the private sector.  Georgia does not have a history of university and private sector collaboration.

With official unemployment stuck between 12 and 15 percent – and likely much higher in reality – economic growth is the top priority for the government.  Georgia’s GDP growth was lower than expected in 2016, and although it picked up in 2017, there is still significant work to be done to ensure the economy’s stability and to generate prosperity.  The government’s plan for accelerating growth includes more spending on infrastructure development and education.  Government officials recognize the private sector is the key to growth and they are putting in place measures to create a more welcoming business climate, including support for entrepreneurs.  In fact, the government’s TechPark facility is a state-of-the-art campus serving as a business incubator and a hub for innovative activity.  The government has also set up the Georgian Innovation and Technology Agency (GITA) to work on technology policy, run TechPark, and be the point of contact for start-ups and innovators.  GITA and TechPark are tangible examples of the government’s commitment to entrepreneurship.  In addition, Georgia regularly scores well on ease-of-doing business surveys and prides itself on being a regional leader in this regard.

Regionally, Turkey is Georgia’s largest trading partner, with Azerbaijan, Russia, and the EU also in the top five.  Tbilisi’s economic relationship with China is growing, with exports up nearly 40 percent year-on-year.  With the end of sanctions and the lifting of Georgia’s visa requirements for Iranians, Tbilisi and Tehran are mutually interested in expanding their economic relationship, but so far there are few concrete examples of expanded Iranian investment or trade.

For more background information on Georgian universities and their research capacity please see:

  • Ministry of Education and Science of Georgia mes.gov.ge
  • Law of Georgia on Higher Education

http://planipolis.iiep.unesco.org/upload/Georgia/Georgia_Law_of_Georgia_on_HE.pdf

OBJECTIVES

This project  as to foster entrepreneurial and innovative pursuits among Georgian professors, scholars, undergraduate, and graduate students; provide training in marketing, finance, revenue-raising, and small-business market-oriented sustainability; develop an ecosystem of knowledge transfer among Georgian universities that encourages entrepreneurial pursuits through the commercialization of research and ideas; and  provide the framework for a sustainable entrepreneurial skills program consisting of a Georgian and American university consortium with possible in-kind contribution(s) from private sector entities and/or non-governmental organizations.

The project has the following specific objectives (applicants must respond to A and B):

A:  To foster the commercialization of ideas and research among Georgian academics, including professors, scholars, undergraduate, and graduate students.

  • To train program beneficiaries (30-40 participants) in skills including marketing, finance, revenue raising, and small business market-oriented sustainability, etc. that will encourage entrepreneurial pursuits through the commercialization of their research and ideas. (In-kind contribution is not requested for the training, money is sufficient for the training component.)
  • To facilitate the knowledge transfer to academics and entrepreneurs, for the purpose of developing an entrepreneurial skill set.

B:  To develop a sustainable entrepreneurial skills program of a Georgian university consortium with American University lead-in and in-kind contribution from private sector entities and/or non-governmental organizations that outlasts grant funding.

  • The objective of recipients should be to take their idea(s) and make them marketable in the form of a small business, start-up, etc.

C:  To bolster Georgian university system with resources to aid hopeful entrepreneurs and innovators in their Georgian business-related pursuits

D:  To develop ties between Georgian academia, government, and private sector.

NOTE:  Prospective grantees must provide information on how participants will be selected, with a preference for competitive selection from a broad range of Georgian universities; any potential incentives for participation in and completion of the program (course credits for PhD candidates as negotiated with the academic’s host university and/or stipends for professors) or disincentives for unsuccessful performance during the program (expulsion from the program).  As the project is intended to improve idea-to-market capabilities in Georgian universities, national science institutes, think tanks, and business incubators should partner with Georgian higher educational institution(s) to potentially form a consortium.

EXPECTED RESULTS

The program is intended to improve entrepreneurial capabilities and the ability to commercialize research driven ideas of university scholars. Specifically, the program will provide Georgian professors, scholars, undergraduate, and graduate students with training to develop finance, marketing, revenue raising, and small-business market oriented sustainability skills, among others, for the purpose supporting their entrepreneurial and innovative pursuits in the Georgian market.

  • To develop the capacity of Georgian professors, scholars, undergraduate, and graduate students to commercialize on their research and the skills to foster their entrepreneurial pursuits.
  • To provide more robust resources for Georgian university academics looking to commercialize their research and ideas.
  • To develop and sustain a Georgian university “small business incubator” consortium with American university lead-in and private sector involvement.
  • To encourage Georgian academics to take their research and/or ideas and embark on entrepreneurial and innovative pursuits.

FUNDING PRIORITY

The Public Affairs Section (PAS) of the U.S. Embassy in Tbilisi, Georgia seeks to fund an effective, innovative, and sustainable project to improve the commercialization capacity of Georgian university members’ research and ideas. PAS will look favorably upon partnerships that include a Georgian university consortium with American university lead in and private sector involvement.

ELIGIBILITY Requirements

Eligibility is limited to U.S. non-profit/non-governmental organizations U.S. universities, Georgian universities, educational institutes, and private sector entities.

Applicants are not required to include funding from other donors.  However, applications that include additional in-kind and/or cash contributions from non-U.S. Government sources will be more competitive, since cost-sharing demonstrates a strong commitment to the planned activities and will be considered to show greater cost effectiveness.

APPLICATION AND SUBMISSION INFORMATION

Award Period:  One to two years upon applicant’s program design (with possible extension).

Award Amount:  Up to $300,000 pending funding availability.

Application Submission Process:  Applicants must submit proposals electronically on grants.gov.

Application Deadline:  All applications must be submitted in electronic form in addition to or instead of the hard copies on or before June 15, 2018, 11:59 p.m. Eastern Standard time.

Applications submitted after 11:59 p.m. will not be eligible for consideration.  If receipt of application in not confirmed within two days, please contact TbilisiGrants@state.gov.

Telegraphic or fax applications are not authorized for this NOFO and will not be accepted. The total size of each attachment should not exceed 3 MBs.  Every page of the proposal must be numbered.  The application must have a table of contents.  Large graphic files are discouraged.  The format of any attachments must be in Microsoft Word, Excel, or PDF.  Attached files should be printable on U.S. letter size paper (8½ x11”). Do NOT send .rar files.

Application Content:  Applicants must follow the RFP instructions and conditions contained herein and supply all information required.  Failure to furnish all information or comply with stated requirements will result in disqualification from the competition.  Applicants must set forth full, accurate, and complete information as required by this RFP.  The penalty for making false statements in proposals to the USG is prescribed on 18 U.S.C.1001.

Section 1 – Application for Federal Assistance (SF-424):
This form can be found here (PDF 160 Kb)
Instructions for the Application form can be found here (PDF 32 Kb)
SF-424b-Assuarances Non-Construction
SF-424 Disclosure of Lobbying Activities

Section 2 – Executive summary (maximum 2 pages):
The executive summary is limited to two pages in length.  It must provide a summary of the identified need, proposed activities, and expected results.

Section 3 – Project Goals/Implementation Plan (maximum 10 pages):

The applicant must specify the proposed activities that will be undertaken to achieve the goals and objectives of this NOFO.  The proposed activities should be described in sufficient detail to show how objectives and goals will be met.  The narrative should be brief, concise, and provide a clear description of what the applicant proposes to do, where, why, when, how, and by whom.

This section should also include a structured monitoring and evaluation plan or matrix that will demonstrate how success will be measured against objectively verifiable performance indicators.  The matrix should also include:  sources/means for verification, risks and assumptions for goals and objectives, and expected results and activities.

Section 4 – Organizational Capability (maximum 2 pages):

Applications must include a clear description of the applicant’s organizational and management structure, and previous experience with similar projects.  In addition to information about the organization as a whole, this section must also identify the proposed management structure and staffing plan for the proposed project.  Describe any partnerships, consortia, or coalitions arranged between the applicant and the beneficiary organization(s).

Section 5 – Appendices:

The proposal submission must include the two appendices listed below:

  • Budget (Required) – the budget must identify the total amount of funding requested, with a breakdown of amounts to be spent in the following budget categories: personnel (salary, wages, honoraria); fringe benefits if any; international and domestic travel; materials; equipment, if any; supplies; office /classroom rental; Georgian participants costs, if any (stipends, domestic travel, etc.); other direct and indirect costs, etc. Include a budget with an accompanying budget narrative which provides in detail the total costs for implementation of the program your organization is proposing.  Detailed budget notes and supporting justification of all proposed budget line items should be included.  In addition, a summary of the budget must be submitted using Standard Form SF-424A.  This form can be found below:

Budget form  SF424A (Excel 32 Kb) and Budget Information (PDF 57 Kb)

The budget may include an estimate for continuation activities, which will be considered for successful applicants to this NOFO in future fiscal years based on performance and the availability of funds.

Applicants that have a Negotiated Indirect Cost Rate Agreement with the U.S. Government should submit the latest copy.

  • Resume (Required) – a resume, not to exceed 3 pages in length, must be included for the proposed key staff person, such as the Project Director. If an individual for this type of position has not been identified, the applicant may submit a one-page position description, identifying the qualifications and skills required for that position, in lieu of a resume.
  •  Letters of Intent (Optional) – Public Affairs Section (PAS) recommends that U.S. applicants identify in advance the Georgian partner(s) and beneficiary organization(s) and recommends submitting letters of intent together with the proposal. Georgian applicants should identify local beneficiary(s) and key invited instructors/experts who will help to implement the project. The letters must identify the type of relationship to be entered into (formal or informal), the roles and responsibilities of the applicant and beneficiary(s) in relation to the proposed project activities, and the expected result of the cooperation.  Please note that these are not letters of support, and should only be included for those organizations that will play an active role in the project, including those that receive financial support through the project budget.  The individual letters cannot exceed 1 page in length, and applicants are limited to submitting up to 5 letters per proposal.

AWARD SELECTION CRITERIA

Evaluation Criteria:  Applicants should note that the following criteria (1) serve as a standard against which all proposals will be evaluated, and (2) serve to identify the significant matters that should be addressed in all proposals.  The USG will award grants to the applicants whose offers represent the best value to the USG on the basis of technical merit and cost.

Each application will be evaluated by a review committee of the Department of State and Public Affairs Section, U.S. Embassy in Tbilisi, Georgia and other experts, as appropriate.  The evaluation criteria have been tailored to the requirements of this RFP.

  • Program Strategy, Approach, and Implementation Plan (50 points):  Applicants should demonstrate

 (a) good understanding of the issue; clear definitions of the program and a vision of what will be accomplished at the end the agreement; (b) clarity of proposed objectives; (c) technical soundness of approach, including clarity in scope and focus of activities to be carried out; feasibility of achieving results and objectives;

(d) detailed analysis of potential obstacles, risks and problems that could be encountered during the project implementation; (e) local partnership commitments and optimum utilization of Georgian organizations and Georgian expertise in program implementation; (f) clarity of expected achievements/outcomes of the project, and a brief description of the proposed monitoring and evaluation plan.

The review panel will be viewing the implementation plan in terms of how well it addresses the overall relevance of the goals and objectives, feasibility of the proposed activities and their timeline for completion, and the extent to which the impact of the project will continue beyond the conclusion of the funding period.

  • Organizational Capability (30 points): Proposals should demonstrate the applicant’s ability to develop and implement a university research program.  Applicants must demonstrate how their managerial, programmatic, and technical capacity, and past experience will enable them to achieve the stated goals and objectives; and provide a strategy to ensure the smooth and effective implementation of program activities.  In addition, applicants should describe how they will collaborate with Georgian partner organization(s) to meet the project goals.
  • Appendices (20 points):
    • Budget:  Costs shall be evaluated for realism, control practices, and efficiency.  The review committee must determine that the costs paid for this award are reasonable, allowable, and allocable to the proposed project activities.  This will consist of a review of the budget to determine if the overall costs are realistic for the work to be performed, if the costs reflect the applicant’s understanding of the allowable cost principles established by OMB Circular A-21 and if the costs are consistent with the program narrative.

http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/circulars_a021_2004

    • Resume:  The review committee will consider the appropriateness of the selected project director in view of the role and responsibility that person will play in guiding the project through implementation to completion.  Position descriptions submitted in lieu of a resume will be reviewed for the appropriateness of the qualifications and skills identified.
    • CVs for trainers (Preferred)
    • Letters of Intent from cooperating Georgian universities (Optional):  Please provide any available letter(s) from any U.S. or Georgian partner organizations, including universities, regarding their intention to partner in this project.

AWARD ADMINISTRATION INFORMATION

Award Notices:  The grant award shall be written, signed, awarded, and administered by the Grants Officer.  The Grants Officer is the Government official delegated the authority by the U.S. Department of State Procurement Executive to write, award, and administer grants and cooperative agreements.  The assistance award agreement is the authorizing document and will be provided to the Recipient through either mail or facsimile transmission.  Organizations whose applications will not be funded will also be notified in writing.

Anticipated Time to Award:  Applicants should expect to be notified of the final decision within 90 days after the submission deadline.  Following this, the Public Affairs Section (PAS) of the U.S. Embassy in Tbilisi, Georgia staff will provide information at the point of notification about the requirements for the final application, which may include revisions to the activities.  The final applications will not be subject to further competition, but must incorporate any suggested changes made by the Public Affairs Section (PAS) of the U.S. Embassy in Tbilisi, Georgia.

Applicants should be aware that there may be a delay between the time that applications are submitted and awards are made.  Successful applicants can expect to receive their first tranche of grant funds no later than September 2018.  This delay is primarily due to the extensive clearance process that must be undertaken prior to grant awards being made.

Issuance of this RFP does not constitute an award commitment on the part of the Government, nor does it commit the Government to pay for costs incurred in the preparation and submission of proposals.  Further, the Government reserves the right to reject any or all proposals received.

  • Reporting Requirements:  Grantees are required to submit quarterly program progress and financial reports throughout the project period.  Progress and financial reports are due 30 days after the reporting period.  Final programmatic and financial reports are due 90 days after the close of the project period.  Progress reports at a minimum should be submitted via electronic mail to an address to be provided in the award.

Disclaimer

If a proposal is selected for funding, the Department of State has no obligation to provide any additional future funding in connection with the award.  Renewal of an award to extend the period of performance is at the total discretion of the Department of State.