Bring your innovative idea to life and protect the nation. Here’s how.

When the Department of Defense (DoD) had a severe machine failure issue, they called upon a small business, Sentient Science, for a solution. Sentient Science developed software allowing the military to predict critical equipment component failures. Now the DoD knows for sure if a Black Hawk helicopter is ready for retirement.
Pentagon Building in Washington DC

Federal Government funding via the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program made the contract – and solution – possible. Without SBIR, small business owners with brilliant ideas – like you – would be unable to build world-class technology for an agency like the Department of Defense.

SBIR might be the key to bringing your DoD brainchild to life. Here’s what you need to know.

What is the DoD SBIR Program?

The DoD SBIR program is a highly competitive program allowing small businesses to propose innovative research and development (R&D) solutions in response to critical military needs.

There are DoD SBIR programs that target and address various agencies’ specific needs and interests. For example, the Navy SBIR program focuses on naval-specific needs, and the Army SBIR program focuses on the Army’s unique needs.

Through Federally-funded research and development, small business innovators like you can serve the country without enlisting.

Am I eligible for the DoD SBIR program?

  • For-profit businesses with less than 500 employees are eligible for the DoD SBIR program.
  • Your company must be US-based and at least 51% owned and controlled by one or more United States citizens or permanent residents.

If you meet these requirements and have an innovative idea or solution (or have a creative idea or solution adaptable to the DoD’s needs), you’re probably eligible. And if you’re part of the Air Force (or any military branch), you may qualify for the Air Force AFWERX program.

How is the DoD SBIR program funded?

Taxpayer dollars pay for the SBIR program. Each year, congress requires every agency participating in the SBIR program to contribute 3.2% of their excess research and development budget towards small businesses.

DoD has the largest budget out of all agencies in the SBIR program at $1.3 billion. At least 50% of the funding in the entire SBIR program comes from DoD.

Because of their larger budget, each SBIR phase pays out a little higher than typical SBIR awards through other agencies: Phase I awards can be up to $111,500 for a performance period that can’t exceed six months, and Phase II awards can be up to $1.1 million with a performance period up to 2 years.

Please note: the DoD distributes SBIR funds through contracts, not grants. The DoD is your customer (essentially).

What are the DoD SBIR Phases?

As with everything in the SBIR program, there are typically three phases:

  • Phase I Project Feasibility: This phase determines your submitted idea’s scientific, technical, and commercial merit. You’ll solicit, pitch, and propose your idea to the DoD. Please keep in mind that you must ensure that your innovation aligns with the agency’s described requirements.
  • Phase II Technology Development: Your research and development are funded during this phase. It’s also when you’ll develop your idea into DoD-supporting technology.
  • Phase III Commercialization: Phase III falls outside of the SBIR program. You must obtain non-SBIR government or private funding to transition the tech you developed in Phase II into a product or service for the government and commercial marketplace.

Here’s where things get funky. Another detail separates the DoD SBIR program from the standard program; it’s a step called Direct to Phase II. Direct to Phase II initiates when the DoD issues a Phase II award to a small business that didn’t receive its Phase I SBIR or STTR award.

Direct to Phase II initiates when a small business can prove the scientific feasibility, technical merit, and commercial opportunities of their innovation by soliciting contract proposals and grant applications.

What does the DoD need from me?

The military and the Department of Defense constantly look for innovative technologies. Three times a year, the DoD releases a list of topics to the public called Broad Agency Announcements (BAA). These announcements will help you understand the DoD’s research and development needs.

You can browse current DoD announcements here. We suggest that you sign up to receive DoD Listserv emails. You can also follow their regularly updated Facebook and Twitter accounts for information.

Today, the DoD requires research and development in the following areas:

  • Air Platform
  • Battlespace
  • Biomedical
  • Chemical/Biodefense
  • Electronics
  • Ground/Sea Vehicles
  • Human Systems
  • InfoSystems
  • Materials/Processes
  • Nuclear
  • Sensors
  • Space Platforms
  • Weapons

Here’s something else you should know: you can’t submit a proposal for R&D that isn’t included in an announcement.

DoD agencies routinely release Broad Agency Announcements (BAAs) specifically targeted for the Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) program to encourage participation from university researchers like DESI, MURI, and ARO.

What agencies are within the DoD?

Here’s a list of the 13 agencies that make up the Department of Defense. You should keep in mind that not all agencies participate in the DoD SBIR program every year, and some release additional announcements outside of the regular schedule. Also, some agencies provide broader, more general topics and programs to encourage participation from new small businesses.

ArmyUnited States Army
NavyUnited States Navy
Air ForceUnited States Air Force
CBDChemical and Biological Defense
DARPADefense Advanced Research Projects Agency
DHADefense Health Agency
DLADefense Logistics Agency
DMEADefense Microelectronics Activity
DTRADefense Threat Reduction Agency
MDAMissile Defense Agency
NGANational Geospatial-Intelligence Agency
OSDOffice of the Secretary of Defense
USSOCOMUnited States Special Operations Command

How do I apply for DoD SBIR/STTR?

If you think you have what it takes to further the DoD’s mission, start by creating an account here. Once you’re registered and settled on a topic, you can begin the Defense SBIR/STTR Innovation Portal (DSIP) proposal process.

We understand that the proposal process can be overwhelming. Team80 is here to help! We’re SBIR experts with over 20 years of experience working with SBIR-participating agencies like the DoD. We understand every aspect of the proposal submission and solicitation process. Let’s bring your vision to life!

We’re here to help you succeed. Get in touch today!

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