The Air Force SBIR/STTR program is in the midst of a major transformation to accelerate critical new technologies to the warfighter, including a new emphasis on the STTR program. Per the SBIR/STTR website; “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.” While the STTR program accounts for a quarter of the SBIR/STTR contracts and budget, that represents $70M in annual investment in small businesses and research institutions.
In 2018, Medium.com discussed the importance engaging with small businesses. “Why do we need this big stable of industry? So small businesses that bring out the innovation — us the supply chain resiliency that we need,” Matthew Beebe, Defense Logistics Agency Acquisition director said. “We might look at dollars and percentages as an indicator, but it is really about that supply chain resiliency and innovation that makes us a stronger supporter for the warfighter.”
Cultivating relationships is at the core of that supply chain resiliency. WBI’s Small Business Hub coordinated an Opportunity Discovery Collider with the Air Force SBIR/STTR Program to connect small businesses to these untapped commercial opportunities. 80 attendees gathered on March 14, 2019 for this day-long event. Seven different speakers presented perspectives from the STTR program office, the Ohio Frontier Regional Network (OFRN), STTR success stories from industry, review of Air Force Pitch Day, proposal writing, and intellectual property protection. Additionally, Technical Points of Contact from each of the AFRL Technology Directorates were on hand to do 10-minute one-on-ones to any small businesses who might have a question about their technology.
Events like these will help increase the number of companies engaging with the Air Force, from research to requirements. “The greater number of businesses we have in our pool of vendors that we use to supply requirements for the military, the more we can be assured that when the military sends in a requirement, we’ll be able to get them what they ask for quickly and within the parameters of price, delivery and other factors,” Amy Sajda, director of the Defense Logistics Agency’s (DLA’s) Office of Small Business Programs said.