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It is no secret that AFWERX is changing the way the Air Forces innovates. They have awarded 1300+ contracts totaling more than $400M to small businesses across the United States, and we can only expect that number to grow as we enter 2021. In a memo dated September 1, 2020, Dr. Will Roper, the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics, discussed the reorganization of the Air Force’s innovation channels into 3 branches and how this restructure will facilitate impactful collaboration with the commercial industry. The memo gives excellent insight into the Air Force’s strategic goals and the results expected of their innovation efforts. In particular, Dr. Roper expanded on AFVentures and foreshadowed the upcoming “big bets” the Air Force will place through the STRATFI Program.
During the AFWERX Accelerate event last week, AFVentures released the first draft notice of opportunity for the Air’s Forces SBIR/STTR Supplemental Funding Pilot Program. Companies who have won SBIR/STTR Phase IIs in the last 3 years are eligible to receive additional funding to further scaled their Phase II efforts (there are some additional requirements, so we recommend you check out the solicitation for more details!). There are 2 different opportunities listed in the notice: Tactical Funding Increase (TACFI) and Strategic Funding Increase (STRATFI). Each opportunity has different requirements and funding amounts. TACFI ranges from $375K to $1.7M of SBIR funding and STRATFI is $3M to $15M of SBIR funding. There is a matching component that requires non-SBIR funding to be put forward for award.
A couple of factors we recommend you thinking about before applying: 1) check out the 2019 Air Force S&T Strategy to see where your solution matches with the Air Forces strategic outlook. The Air Force is going to place their ‘big bets’ on solutions that meet a pressing need. 2) start the conversations with your end-users and customer early. There is a requirement for a government match, so there needs to be buy-in and support of your solution. 3) start your capabilities brief early. With these programs being the Air Force’s ‘big bets’, this program will be extremely competitive. The application package will be intensive and require a large time commitment, so ensure you plan accordingly.