Five US Department of Defense (DoD) units have partnered to present the first-ever experimental concept Joint Small Business Innovation Research Open Topic for the first application period of 2020.
AFWERX, Army Futures Command, NavalX, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, the National Security Innovation Network/Defense Innovation Unit have collaborated over the past few months to make the concept an inter-agency initiative to connect start-ups, small businesses and government.
AFWERX AFVentures lead Chris Benson said: “This represents a single front door for the DoD, where small companies can access a portion of the approximately $1.5bn of DoD SBIR funds within 90 days of applying.
“Companies that go on a Joint Phase I can now go to a Phase II with any of the participating organisations.”
In 2018, AFWERX revamped the congressionally funded SBIR process by reducing submission requirements and improving the time it takes to issue contracts, in partnership with other airforce organisations such as the Air Force Research Laboratory.
With the Open Topic concept, all majority businesses owned by the US with less than 500 employees will be able to initially submit their commercial off-the-shelf solutions.
Companies in Phase I of the programme can locate a DoD customer prior to applying for a Phase II after they receive a contract and $50,000 in seed funding. Additional money will help them complete a trial run with an end-user.
All companies that have received a Phase I contract are eligible for a federal government agency contract without the need for further competition.
The Open Topic was introduced in late 2018 until 2019. Since then, it has received more than 3,600 submissions and awarded more than 1,300 contracts worth approximately $240m.
Army Applications Lab technical insights and analysis director Casey Perly said: “By participating in a Joint SBIR Open Topic, we can work together to deliver tangible capabilities to the warfighter, and simultaneously provide small businesses better access to the DoD.”