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Small Businesses Look to Fill Navy's Technology Gaps

For Immediate Release: Apr 15, 2011

ARLINGTON, Va. – More than 700 attendees joined the Navy’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR)/Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) team to seek out entrepreneurial opportunities at an industry event April 10-13 in Madison, Wis.

Held twice yearly, the 2011 National SBIR/STTR Conference equips small businesses with pointers – and points of contact – for doing business with federal agencies. The U.S. Navy leverages both programs to spark ingenuity and competition among industry partners working to fill current technology gaps.

“Through small businesses, we stimulate the high-tech community base to respond to our Navy’s needs, and foster entrepreneurial spirit across America,” said John Williams, director of the Navy SBIR/STTR program.

The Navy operates both programs with a budget of $375 million to work with more than 900 companies annually. On the SBIR side, award recipients receive seed money to explore solutions to warfighter technology needs. The award is structured across several phases:

  • Phase I provides six months of funding to determine scientific or technical merit
  • Phase II funds ideas with promise for up to two years to develop working prototypes
  • Phase III aims to help companies commercialize their products for sale to the military and private sector

As a complement to SBIR, the STTR program assists companies with maturing their products for Navy use. It also identifies opportunities to incorporate ideas generated by university and non-profits into the entrepreneurial mix.

“Not all business ideas make it all the way to production or Phase III” said Lee Ann Boyer, Navy SBIR/STTR commercialization pilot program (CPP) manager, “but more than 50 percent report making product sales to the government or private sector within three years, which is very good.”

Boyer credits their success to aligning SBIR topics with warfighter needs. Unlike other branches of defense, which rely heavily on the science and technology research community for topics, the Navy SBIR/STTR office works closely with the acquisition community to provide solutions.

As a result, the Navy continues to hold the highest amount in Phase III sales when compared to other SBIR efforts across the Department of Defense.

“Of course every small business we help through the SBIR program has something to contribute to the Navy, and I met hundreds of small business owners at the conference this year,” Williams said. “Some are truly pioneers in their work. We publish annual successes, and I hope to see a few of the folks I spoke with this week get highlighted in future publications.”

Three recent successes of the Navy’s SBIR/STTR program are highlighted in a new video:

  • The Smart Fence, a sensor developed by Safety Dynamics, provides a perimeter security solution for military bases and commercial airports.
  • The Silver Fox Unmanned Aerial Vehicle developed by Advanced Ceramics Research and acquired by BAE Systems, provides low-cost, high-endurance aerial surveillance for troops in Afghanistan.
  • Automated Test and Re-Test (ATRT) solutions developed by Innovative Defense Technologies, reduces software testing time, cost, and speeds up the delivery of higher quality capabilities to the fleet.

Each company took full advantage of the Navy SBIR program and some of its unique tools designed to help businesses succeed, such as Phase II.5 funds, CPP and Technical Risk Identification and Mitigation System, or TRIMS.

The Phase II.5 program provides SBIR funds dedicated to accelerating the transition of existing Phase II projects, and CPP provides non-financial support (like the Transition Assistance Program). Both highlight the Navy's commitment to technology transition. TRIMS offers an online tool that businesses can use to identify key risk areas, track program goals and generate reports to prevent cost and schedule problems downstream.

“The Navy SBIR/STTR Office will continue to make improvements to the process,” Williams said. “We want to make it easy to succeed, and when small business wins, Navy wins.”

For more information on small business opportunities:

About the Office of Naval Research

The Department of the Navy’s Office of Naval Research provides the science and technology necessary to maintain the Navy and Marine Corps’ technological advantage. Through its affiliates, ONR is a leader in science and technology with engagement in 50 states, 55 countries, 634 institutions of higher learning and nonprofit institutions, and more than 960 industry partners. ONR, through its commands, including headquarters, ONR Global and the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C., employs more than 3,800 people, comprising uniformed, civilian and contract personnel.