Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer (SBIR/STTR) are the principal set-aside programs for small business participation in federal research and development funding, yet the requirements for administering and managing these programs have not changed significantly in decades.
To keep pace with discovery in science and technology worldwide, DARPA now intends to release SBIR/STTR opportunities on an out-of-cycle basis, separate from the three pre-determined announcements traditionally issued directly through the Department of Defense (DoD). The change is expected to reduce the overall time from opportunity announcement to contract award.
Prior to the change, the timeline for SBIR/STTR funding opportunities was managed independently of DARPA’s primary technology programs, which resulted in small businesses being isolated from the benefits associated with integration into established program communities. Under the terms of the pilot program, however, DARPA will institute timesaving measures to speed program integration, such as Direct to Phase II authority, which allows the agency to bypass Phase I research requirements once performers provide satisfactory documentation of feasibility, and/or proof of scientific merit, technical merit, and commercialization potential.
DARPA will also seek to identify SBIR/STTR Phase II awardees with a compelling go-to-market strategy for participation in a newly created commercialization accelerator. The DARPA accelerator will provide additional funding to employ one entrepreneur-in-residence or business development lead who will offer the awardee direct support for activities including, but not limited to, customer engagement planning, market analysis and mapping, competitive analysis, techno-economic analysis, IP securement strategy development, and financial plan creation.
“It’s essential to change our acquisition practices to mirror the commercial marketplace if we hope to attract revolutionary companies that normally avoid working with the federal government,” said Dr. Steven Walker, director of DARPA. “This move will provide DARPA the flexibility to operate at a much faster pace than traditional SBIR/STTR contracting cycles have historically allowed.”
Congress established the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Program in 1982 to provide opportunities for small businesses to participate in federal government-sponsored research and development. Since that time, DARPA has leveraged SBIR awards to promote and sustain small business innovation as well as foster the development and transition of critical national security capabilities.
Full details regarding DARPA’s SBIR/STTR programs and associated Broad Agency Announcements are available at: https://www.darpa.mil/work-with-us/for-small-businesses.
See DARPA’s 10 focus areas for small businesses here: https://www.nextgov.com/emerging-tech/2019/03/darpa-highlights-10-focus-areas-innovative-small-businesses/155279/