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Research Program Promotes Joint Warfighter
The Small Business Innovation Research program promotes pioneering
research and development on projects critical to the joint warfighter.
By Michael P. Kleiman / Air Force Research Laboratory, Space Vehicles Directorate Public Affairs

KIRTLAND AIR FORCE BASE, N.M., June 12, 2006 – Using monies from the Small Business Innovation Research program, many U.S. for-profit companies, comprised of 500 or less personnel, have made a huge impact by providing ground-breaking technologies needed for the Air Force Research Laboratory’s  Directed Energy and Space Vehicles Directorates, Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M., as well as for the Defense Department and other federal government organizations.

Established in 1984, the Small Business Innovation Research program consists of two funded phases for project feasibility and prototype, as well as a final stage for technology commercialization.

"It is really a positive program because it vectors small business and technological advances. It is unique in that way."

Danielle Lythgoe, program manager

“It is really a positive program because it vectors small business and technological advances,” said Danielle Lythgoe, Small Business Innovation Research program manager, Space Vehicles Directorate. “It is unique in that way.”

“It provides opportunities for businesses that do not have the means to compete with the big companies,” Lythgoe emphasized. “These smaller entities may have the technology innovations our organization has been looking for.”

Approved technology topics, submitted by individual authors, initiate the Small Business Innovation Research Web-based solicitation process, which occurs quarterly.

The Air Force Research Laboratory technology directorates including Directed Energy and Space Vehicles have a limited number of topics per solicitation period, and last year, Air Force Research Laboratory had a total of 269 topics that were published.

During the pre-solicitation period, and prior to proposal submission, interested firms can get in touch with the respective topic technical point of contact for further information and/or clarification.

Approximately five weeks later, the program accepts proposals from small businesses via the Defense Department’s Small Business Innovation Research Internet site, www.acq.osd.mil/osbp/sbir/.

Finally, three to four months later, contract awards occur, with each topic generally receiving more than one award.

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.”
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Apr. 18, 2014
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