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Understanding the DoD SBIR 24.2 Program: A Roadmap to Success

Updated: May 16

By Josh Bar-on

Josh Bar-on, Senior Advisor for Akela Consultants

It's DoD* SBIR** season again, and you know what that means. That's right, around 100 different grant topics seeking to fund innovation from virtually every major technology sector and offering non-dilutive capital for small U.S. businesses who meet the solicited technological needs. At Akela Consulting, we recognize the significance of this opportunity, which is why we've decided to create a bird's eye overview of the DoD's SBIR program to help you decide if it's the right fit for you.

*Department of Defense (U.S.)

**Small Business Innovation Research is the U.S. federal governments small business grant program for R&D projects.

DoD SBIR Mission and Objectives

The DoD SBIR program aims to stimulate technological innovation in the small business sector while addressing the research and development needs of the Department of Defense. It seeks to foster the development of innovative solutions that enhance military capabilities, improve national security, and support the defense industrial base.

DoD SBIR logo

Eligibility Criteria

To participate in the DoD SBIR program, businesses must meet certain eligibility criteria, including qualifying as a small business according to the U.S. Small Business Administration's size standards; the principal investigator must be primarily employed by the small business; and proposing entities must ensure that the proposed innovation aligns with the solicited need.

Topics and Solicitations

The DoD issues solicitations with specific topics or areas of interest, outlining the areas in which it seeks innovative solutions. These topics cover a wide range of technology areas, including but not limited to aerospace, cybersecurity, advanced materials, artificial intelligence, and robotics. Small businesses submit proposals addressing these topics. Some of the more interesting topics from this cycle's release include a $1.8M opportunity for Resilient Space Technologies, a $1.8M opportunity for Trusted Generative AI for Acquisition Acceleration, and an unprecedented $3M opportunity for Space-Based Environmental Monitoring.

SBIR Evaluation Process

Proposals submitted to the DoD SBIR program undergo a rigorous evaluation process. Evaluation criteria typically include technical merit, commercialization strategy, personnel qualifications, and DoD relevance. Selected proposals receive funding to support their R&D efforts.

Commercialization: A key objective of the DoD SBIR program is to facilitate the transition of innovative technologies from the laboratory to the marketplace. While Phase I & II focus on the technical development and scale-up, Phase III is a sole source contract, where the small businesses transitions their SBIR-funded technologies into a product or service that is utilized by the military, and likely the commercial market, too.

Annual Budget and Sub-agencies

U.S. Grant money
The DoD's SBIR budget is close to $2 billion

The DoD's annual SBIR budget is approximately $2 billion, making it one of the largest SBIR programs among all federal agencies. This budget represents close to half of the total annual SBIR budget for all government agencies combined.

The DoD SBIR program is further divided among different sub-agencies, each with its own set of priorities and focus areas. These sub-agencies include the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA), U.S. Air Force, Defense Health Agency (DHA), U.S. Army, U.S. Navy, The Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD), and more. Each sub-agency plays a vital role in advancing technological innovation within the defense sector and supporting small businesses in their pursuit of SBIR funding opportunities.

DoD SBIR Release Cycle 2024

Keeping an eye on upcoming opportunities is vital for small businesses aiming to participate in the DoD SBIR program. The next cycle, 24.2 prerelease, has opened for submissions as of May 15, 2024, and will close on June 12, 2024. With around 100 topics on the agenda, small businesses should mark their calendars and prepare to submit their innovative proposals.

AFWERX: A Catalyst for Innovation

One program that stands out within the DoD SBIR landscape is AFWERX, spearheaded by the U.S. Air Force. AFWERX represents a paradigm shift in government innovation efforts, offering an open-call platform for technology solutions that can address Air Force challenges.

Unlike traditional SBIR solicitations, AFWERX operates as a rapid funding program, providing expedited pathways for small businesses to access funding and support for their innovative ideas. The program's open-call nature means that any technology with potential applications to Air Force problems is eligible to apply, democratizing access to government funding and fostering a culture of innovation and collaboration.

By leveraging the resources and expertise of AFWERX, small businesses can accelerate the development and deployment of transformative technologies that enhance the capabilities of the U.S. Air Force and contribute to national defense priorities. AFWERX operates on its own timeline and has a current solicitation out now that closes on May 23, 2024. With a lower barrier to enter than other SBIR programs, AFWERX is a small business favorite.

Partnering with Akela Consulting: Your Guide to Success

Akela Consulting logo

At Akela Consulting, we believe in diversifying our approach to securing funding for your innovative projects. Not only do we navigate the various sub-agencies within the DoD SBIR program, but we also explore opportunities beyond the DoD, tapping into the remaining $2 billion in funding across other federal agencies. With Akela Consulting, you'll have a trusted partner dedicated to unlocking the full spectrum of opportunities available, both within and beyond the DoD SBIR program. Let's explore new horizons and chart a course towards a future filled with success and impact. Join us at Akela Consulting as we lead the way in diversifying your approach to securing funding for your innovative projects.

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