The Department of Defense needs innovation now — and too often, the best new technology from American small business innovators dies before it can become a record-breaking program for the military, the Under Secretary of Defense for the Defense said. research and engineering.
Heidi Shyu said the DOD spends more than $2 billion a year on Small Business Innovation Research, or SBIR, in various technology areas.
“I personally engage with small businesses, small business roundtables to understand the barriers to doing business with them and what obstacles they see that we can help them with. [with] in terms of removing roadblocks,” Shyu said yesterday at the National Defense Industrial Association science and technology conference in Hawaii.
One of the hurdles the ministry hopes to overcome is how some small-company technologies are unable to come to fruition due to a lack of funding.
“We are submitting a legislative proposal to allow for more funding of several Phase II funding tranches,” she said. “Phase I funding is usually quite modest, $50,000 to $75,000 over a six-month period, basically to flesh out your concept.”
The second phase, she said, is for a small business to think about developing a prototype. She said funding there was usually around $1.5 million.
“After Phase II, SBIR ends,” she said. “Phase III is up to the registration program, services, to fund, so they have to catch the football. The problem here is usually that the technology isn’t mature enough at a [technology readiness level] six to enable a successful transition to a recording program.”
That means, she said, a promising technology might go through Phase II, but never Phase III — adoption into military service — because it’s not quite ready to go yet. this transition. Thus, any hope a small business might have of getting its new technology into the hands of service members comes to an end.
“What I would like to do is get Congressional approval to allow us to form multiple rounds of funding – Phase IIa, Phase IIb, Phase IIc – so that we can continue to mature the technology and bridge the gap, I calls it ‘the valley of death,’ for small businesses,” she said. “That way we have a much higher likelihood of helping them transition to a registration program.”
Shyu also said that the research and engineering office is redesigning his website to enable small businesses with ideas to make inroads with DOD.
“We are also rebuilding the USD [undersecretary of defense] D [research and engineering] […]to help small businesses, in particular, navigate the Byzantine DOD,” she said. “A lot of small businesses, they don’t even know who to talk to…it’s this giant wall in front of them. And hopefully, once our website is up and running, they can go to Google and enter any product they have to help them figure out who to go to.”