Air Force aims to boost cooperative technology development between small businesses and research institutions to solve warfighter challenges
The Air Force Small Business Innovation Research/Small Business Technology Transfer (SBIR/STTR) Program is in the midst of a major transformation to accelerate critical new technologies to the warfighter, which includes a renewed emphasis on STTR projects.
Major highlights of the new effort include an upcoming workshop and expanded outreach.
STTR topics, which require a small business to partner with a research institution, typically account for fewer than 25 percent of the total Air Force SBIR/STTR topics offered during a Broad Agency Announcement. As a result, they are often overlooked as a commercial opportunity and have a relatively low commercialization rate. Commercialization encompasses the transition of technology to Air Force use as well as commercial sales.
“The Air Force is committed to fully realizing a return on investment from STTR and increasing technology transitions,” said Air Force Research Laboratory SBIR/STTR Program Lead Anissa Lumpkin. In her role, Lumpkin oversees the STTR portfolio of topics. “While less than 25 percent of the overall program, STTR still accounts for a $70 million annual investment in small businesses and research institutions. We have a massive opportunity to positively impact the Air Force mission.”
The new initiatives include:
- An STTR Workshop on March 14 in Dayton, Ohio. Representatives from all Air Force Research Laboratory technology directorates will be available for individual meetings, and workshops will be held on a variety of topics, such as STTR basics and Phase III contracts. Some industry representatives will also be attending. The Air Force SBIR/STTR social media channels will offer additional registration details beginning in late January/early February;
- Increased outreach to universities that traditionally have not participated in STTR, such as historically black colleges and universities; and
- Raising awareness that many of the same resources applicable to SBIR topics are also available to support STTR topics, including the Commercialization Readiness Program and Phase III contracts. CRP support often helps overcome significant hurdles to transitions while Phase III denotes funding from outside the Air Force SBIR/STTR Program and is a critical commercialization benchmark.
According to Lumpkin, the STTR topic development process has already been streamlined and she is focused on applying some non-traditional approaches as enablers to future STTR topics.
“We see a big opportunity to mature critical technologies through STTR,” Lumpkin said.
The Air Force SBIR/STTR Program and its small business partners strive for advancements that support Air Force Major Commands, system program offices and many others to meet near-term critical needs while filling the pipeline with potential game-changing technologies. In stressing innovation over invention, the program works to drive down costs, get the best new technology to the warfighter and boost the economy through small business growth.