When deciding to test the SBIR/STTR waters, many innovators find themselves focusing on one or two of the 11 agencies that participate in the SBIR program. This happens because, generally, an agency may have an obvious sweet spot for solicitation topics based on its core mission. For instance, Health and Human Services (HHS/NIH) is most likely to be focused on funding vaccines, medical devices, and other innovations to promote health of humans. Similarly, the climate-focused NOAA is more likely to be interested in instrumentation to analyze weather and air quality. Occasionally, however, there may be overlap between agencies’ missions, such as some type of newly discovered flora with the potential of being fuel source. In this case, the innovation may find funding in either Department of Energy (DoE) or Department of Agriculture (USDA). Ah, but as the letters fall on this page, I can hear someone saying, “But the National Science Foundation also has interest in these topics.”
There is one agency that gets inappropriately pigeon-holed into being interested in things with a stereotypical militaristic purpose. Of course, this agency is the Department of Defense (DoD). Would it be shocking to anyone that DoD has funded similar technology as that listed in the first paragraph? Would it be even more interesting that the DoD often contracts for the technology developed with SBIR/STTR funding? The reality is that DoD is a “contracting” agency and is interested in a WIDE spectrum of innovations in addition to all things that go boom, whether that boom be loud like a missile or as soft as a megabyte. The fact is that it takes much more than “shields and swords” to operate the most well-funded fighting force in the Solar System. For instance, the DoD focuses on the health and wellbeing of the service members, similar to the mission of HHS. They also focus on scientific measurements, understanding climate, and alternative energy sources, like NOAA and DoE. Additionally, part of the defense mission may include smart clothing that combines health benefits, sensors, and an energy source, such as what NSF may fund. Finally, DoD must educate its workforce on the wide-ranging elements involved in the defense mission and other roles, as mentioned. Yes, that is education, which sounds like a cause for the Department of Education, right? Combine this with the fact that many platform technologies can be adapted for use in DoD applications, AND that the DoD is a contracting agency, some may wonder why the DoD topic release dates are not set in cyber-cement on everyone’s e-calendar. In fact, it should be part of the solicitation review process in nearly anyone’s SBIR/STTR strategy.
It takes nothing more of a review of DoD topics to realize the wide spectrum of DoD interests. For instance, on www.SBIR.defense.org, the solicitation titles below were taken from the latest Broad Agency Announcement (BAA). Hypothetically, these titles could easily be solicitations found in the NSF, DoE, Department of Education, HHS, NASA, NOAA, etc.
- Futures Emergency Management through Artificial Intelligence
- Solid Oxide Fuel Cell (SOFC) Power System & Modular, Fuel Flexible Power Source
- Flexible interface for implementing trainee state-driven customizations of virtual training environments
- Low-cost, uncooled low light level imaging detectors
- Heat-Transmitting/Heat-Trapping Lightweight Textile
- Advanced Diesel Engine High-Pressure Fuel Injection Pump
- Space (this is a serious topic title and illustrates the “breadth” component)
- 6U CubeSat EO/IR Solutions for Operational Weather Demo
- Breathing Air Manifold For Air Quality Sampling
- Game-based Distributed, Multi-Domain Operations Teaming Environment
- Rain Drop Measurement System
- Etcetera, etcetera
Contact the SBTDC Tech team to explore SBIR/STTR options with the DoD.
Written by Chris Veal, SBTDC