Due to current changes to the Small Business Innovation Research program, and depending on Air Force Research Laboratory’s budget, some directorates may solicit for proposals more than once a year.
“Small Business Innovation Research is a great seed money program. We try to publicize it as such. There is a lot of flexibility with it,” said Francisco Tapia, SBIR team lead, Directed Energy and Space Vehicles Directorates. “Small businesses are very appreciative of the funding and opportunity.”
With a Small Business Innovation Research Phase I award, a small company receives up to $100,000 for the six- month effort to investigate the potential scientific, technological, and commercial feasibility of a particular concept.
If proven successful, the small business may be invited to submit their proposal for a Phase II award, with funding of up to $750,000 for the two-year time frame to develop a prototype.
Companies participating in Phase II provide monthly or quarterly status reports and work closely with the program managers to advance the technology.
In addition, the organization is required to complete a commercialization report addressing the transfer of the technology to the military or to the private sector. During both phases, work must be performed within the United States.
For the third, and final, phase, the program mandates non-research monies be used for product production.
“It is a terrific program. You see that in the responses from the technical people. They are getting the technology that they need to help the warfighter,” said Ardeth Walker, Small Business Innovation Research program manager, Directed Energy Directorate and Missile Defense Agency Air Force liaison.
“There have been some really exceptional results from the Small Business Innovation Research program,” she said. “For example, night vision goggles resulted from a Small Business Innovation Research award.”
Currently, the Directed Energy and Space Vehicles Directorates manage approximately 85 Small Business Innovation Research Phase I and 62 Phase II contract awards, but with the Air Force Research Laboratory 2006 budget of $350 million, the number will remain the same this year.
“The Small Business Innovation Research program gives us another means to explore innovative technologies. We have experts in the field that not only can identify what companies have the potential, but also can often help them realize their potential,” said Lythgoe. “That’s a win-win situation.”