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Open Call for Science and Technology Created by Early-Stage (e.g. University) Teams



OBJECTIVE: This is an AF Special Topic partnership between AFOSR and AFWERX, please see the above AF Special Topic instructions for further details. A Phase I award will be completed over 3 months with a maximum award of $25K and a Phase II may be awarded for a maximum period of 12 months and $200K. The objective of this topic is to provide an established accelerated technology transition pathway for promising science and technology under development by university teams (undergraduate, graduate, doctorate, post-doctorate, faculty/staff). This includes, but is not limited to, those that have participated in a government sponsored innovation event such as: I-Corp teams, Defense Enterprise Science Initiative, AFRL University Challenge, Hacking For Defense, Hack-A-Thon, etc. This topic is intentionally broad in scope, directed at disruptive innovative advancements that may not be covered by any other specific STTR topic, and designed to explore options for supplementing and expanding public/private partnerships capability with the Air Force Office of Scientific Research. The goal is to stimulate science and technology innovation, foster greatly accelerated technology transfer thru cooperative R&D, and increase private sector commercialization of innovations derived from federal R&D. This topic is aimed at early stage teams (e.g. university teams, research spin-offs or very early stage companies) that have an Minimum Viable Product (MVP) and have partnered with a university or non-profit organization who can help them take their prototype and turn it in to a sustainable business (e.g. university entrepreneurship centers, technology transfer offices, non-profit entrepreneurship institutions). 

DESCRIPTION: Academia is producing disruptive science and technology innovations at an increasingly rapid pace. Hence, rather than utilizing a pre-defined requirements approach, this topic is intended to be an open call for ideas and technologies that may not be currently listed (i.e. the unknown-unknown) under STTR topics, but nonetheless still fit within broad interest areas of the Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR). These broad areas (Engineering and Complex Systems, Information and Networks, Physical Sciences, and Chemistry/Biological Sciences) are covered in greater detail at To be eligible, offeror(s) must be teams that have formed companies and partnered with a university (e.g. university entrepreneurship centers, university technology transfer offices). The offeror should demonstrate their technical capability by demonstrating a credible and high-potential minimum viable product (MVP) along with a credible plan for developing the prototype to a commercially available solution. This topic is not looking for fully formed products, and it is acceptable if the solutions are earlier stage. If the offeror has a later stage solution that already has paying customers, it may make more sense to apply to the SBIR ‘Open Innovation Topic’ AF19.2-001. The offeror should demonstrate their ability to perform the Phase I research by showing that they have an understanding of which Air Force stakeholders could make use of their solution. In general, it will be beneficial to be more specific about the stakeholder, (i.e. listing a person’s name and their exact position and organization is better than just saying ‘pilots could use this’). For early-stage (e.g. student) teams who have never learned about the Air Force and are unsure of where to start, we recommend reaching out to AFWERX ( The offeror should demonstrate their commercialization capability by demonstrating the results of the commercialization efforts of their partner university or non-profit partner (i.e. a university entrepreneurship center, tech transition office, non-profit entrepreneurship center) and showing a credible plan for turning the prototype or MVP into a sustainable business. It will also be important to show the potential for commercialization in the non-defense market (i.e. Dual-Use technologies). FOCUS AREAS: While This topic is open to all research areas and business ideas that meet the above criteria, there are some areas that are of particular interest to the Air Force right now, these are listed below. If your solution may meet one of these focus areas, please list the focus area number in your proposal FA-001 Quantum Computing: Due to its rapidly emerging nature and increasing impact to all science and technology, this topic also includes a special focus area of consideration for quantum science. Submission topics could include quantum sensing, quantum communications and quantum computing. Possible applications include quantum navigation sensors, quantum clocks for more precise and robust communications and quantum computational algorithmic solutions to tasks such as aircraft radar cross-section, computational aerodynamics and software verification and validation FA-002 Artificial Intelligence(AI) : Due to the increased importance of AI in many areas that the Air Force works in, this is a focus area for this topic. More information on the Air Force’s interest in AI can be found below in the attachment to this topic titled: Summary of the 2018 Department Of Defense Artificial Intelligence Strategy. If you believe your solution can help address one of the ‘Focus Areas’, please note this on the first slide of your application slide deck AND please include the Focus Area ID # in your ‘Keywords’ in the online SBIR application (Example: FA-001). The alignment between a proposal and a Focus Area can strengthen an application. This also does not preclude companies who are looking to solve other problems that are not listed in the Focus Areas to submit to this topic, it is simply intended to give indications of areas of special focus for the Air Force at this particular point in time. 

PHASE I: Validate the product-market fit between the proposed solution and a potential US Air Force stakeholder and define a clear and immediately actionable plan for running a trial with the proposed solution and the proposed US Air Force customer. The period of performance for Phase I is targeted at under an academic semester (ideally 3 months or less) with monetary awards in Phase I not to exceed $25k. This feasibility study should directly address: 1. Offeror(s) must focus on who the prime potential US Air Force end user(s) is and articulate how they would use your solution(s) (i.e., the one who is most likely to be an early adopter, first user, and initial transition partner). 2. Deeply explore the problem or benefit area(s) which are to be addressed by the solution(s) - specifically focusing on how this solution will impact the end user of the solution. 3. Define clear objectives and measurable key results for a potential trial of the proposed solution with the identified Air Force end user(s). 4. Identify any additional specific stakeholders beyond the end user(s) who will be critical to the success of any potential trial. This includes, but is not limited to, program offices, contracting offices, finance offices, information security offices and environmental protection offices. 5. Describe if and how the demonstration can be used by other DoD or governmental customers. 6. Development of plans for MVPs, prototypes, manufacturing, distribution and scaling of the idea into an actual solution for DoD customers. 7. Development of the business, including interest from non-governmental customers, potential sources of private funding, and formation of the team (to include new employees, partners, advisors and investors). The funds obligated on the resulting Phase I STTR contracts are to be used for the sole purpose of conducting a thorough feasibility study using scientific experiments, laboratory studies, commercial research and interviews. MVPs or Prototypes may be developed with STTR funds during Phase I studies to better address the risks and potential payoffs in innovative technologies. Phase I will conclude with a short report and video outbrief and/or telecon with select members of the Air Force Office of Scientific Research. 

PHASE II: Develop, install, integrate and demonstrate a prototype system determined to be the most feasible solution during the Phase I feasibility study. If selected, Phase II awards will be granted up to $200k and are targeted for periods of performance less than one year in duration. This demonstration should focus specifically on: 1. Evaluating the proposed solution against the objectives and measurable key results as defined in the Phase I feasibility study. 2. A clear transition path for the proposed solution that takes into account input from all affected stakeholders including but not limited to: end users, engineering, sustainment, contracting, finance, legal, and cyber security. 3. Specific details about how the solution can integrate with other current and potential future solutions. 4. How the solution can be sustainable (i.e. supportability) 5. Clearly identify other specific DoD or governmental customers who want to use the solution 6. Clearly identify other non-governmental customers who want to use the solution. 

PHASE III: The student-led team small business will pursue commercialization of the various technologies developed in Phase II for transitioning expanded mission capability to a broad range of potential government and civilian users and alternate mission applications. Direct access with end users and government customers will be provided with opportunities to receive Phase III awards for providing the government additional research & development, or direct procurement of products and services developed in coordination with the program. NOTES: a. This SBIR is NOT awarding grants, it is awarding contracts, when registering in, be sure to select ‘YES’ to the question ‘Do you wish to bid on contracts?’ in order to be able to compete for this SBIR topic. If you are only registered to compete for grants, you will be ineligible for award under this topic. For more information please visit b. We are working to move fast, please register in SAMs and if already registered please double check your CAGE codes, company name, address information, DUNS numbers, ect. , If they are not correct at time of submission, you will be ineligible for this topic. In order to ensure this, please include, in your 15-slide deck, a screenshot from as validation of your correct CAGE code, DUNS number and current business address along with the verification that you are registered to compete for All Contracts. It is the responsibility of the contractor to ensure that the data in the proposal and the data in are aligned. For more information please visit c. Please note that each company may only have one active ‘Open Topic’ award at a time. If a company submits multiple technically acceptable proposals, only the proposal with the highest evaluation will be awarded. If multiple proposals are evaluated to be equal, the government will decide which proposal to award based upon the needs of the Air Force. The ‘DoD SBIR/STTR Programs Funding Agreement Certification’ form must be completed and signed at the time of *Proposal Submission* and can be found at *****Proposals submitted under this topic may relate to technologies restricted under the International Traffic in Arms Regulation (ITAR) which controls defense-related materials/services import/export, or the Export Administration Regulation (EAR) which controls dual use items. Foreign National is defined in 22 CFR 120.16 as a natural person who is neither a lawful permanent resident (8 U.S.C. § 1101(a)(20)), nor a protected individual (8 U.S.C. § 1324b(a)(3)). It also includes foreign corporations, business associations, partnerships, trusts, societies, other entities/groups not incorporated/organized to do business in the United States, international organizations, foreign governments, and their agencies/subdivisions. Offerors must identify Foreign National team members, countries of origin, visa/work permits possessed, and Work Plan tasks assigned. Additional information may be required during negotiations to verify eligibility. Even if eligible, participation may be restricted due to U.S. Export Control Laws. NOTE: Export control compliance statements are not all-inclusive and do not remove submitters’ liability to 1) comply with applicable ITAR/EAR export control restrictions or 2) inform the Government of potential export restrictions as efforts proceed.***** 


1: FitzGerald, B., Sander, A., & Parziale, J. (2016). Future Foundry: A New Strategic Approach to Military-Technical Advantage. Retrieved June 12, 2018, from

2:  Blank, S. (2016). The Mission Model Canvas – An Adapted Business Model Canvas for Mission-Driven Organizations. Retrieved June 12, 2018, from

3:  US Department of Defense. (2018). 2018 National Defense Strategy of the United States Summary, 11. Retrieved from

4:  Torrance, W. E. (2013). Entrepreneurial campuses: Action, impact, and lessons learned from the Kauffman campuses initiative. Retrieved from

5:  USAF Scientific Advisory Board Study. (2015). Utility of Quantum Systems for the Air Force – Study Abstract. Retrieved from

6:  The Joint Artificial Intelligence Center (JAIC). (2018). SUMMARY OF THE 2018 DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE STRATEGY. Retrieved from

KEYWORDS: Open, Other, Disruptive, Innovation, Defense Related Technologies, Quantum Computing 

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