There has been a lot of debate in the field lately around the new SBIR and STTR Extension Act of 2022 and the details of all that passed with it. As a company who has leveraged SBIR as a tool for more than five years, we are very pleased with many of the changes implemented recently.
While we were one of the largest advocates for the program, we were also well aware of some of its flaws which were causing it to be questioned. While our company leverages SBIR to gain sole-source authority with the ultimate goal of helping our clients become regular suppliers of the DoD, we are well aware that some in the past have not operated in the same way.
In this industry, there is a lot of concern over the concept of “SBIR mills.” These are essentially companies that utilize SBIR solely as an income source, submitting hundreds of proposals in hopes of collecting that $50k-$200k award with no set plan to grow a technology in a way that will be useful to the DoD.
This concern was partially addressed with the reauthorization, and the reason for much of the delay in the first place. Some changes were made to the program and signed into law at the end of September. Long Capture recognized several wins, and we wanted to highlight those.
1. There is No Gap in the Program
This might seem simple, but when considering the ramifications of a delay, this is actually a huge deal. Over the past few years, the SBIR and STTR programs have generated a significant amount of attention, and both play a significant role in breaking down barriers of entry for technologies looking to work with the federal government and the DoD.
We see this attention as a good thing, because when it comes to our nation’s defense, we see competition as a benefit. We want the nation’s best technologies to be in the hands of the DoD, and the recognition of these programs as a feasible avenue is an essential step toward that.
A realistic fear expressed as we awaited a decision was that the program would get delayed and, as a result, lose a lot of momentum and attention achieved over the past years. With the reauthorization happening on the expiration date, we have likely avoided any risk of this happening.
2. Mandatory Open Topics at Least Once a Year
In accordance with the reauthorization, open-topic solicitations will now be required at least once a year from each component of the DoD.
We see this as a huge win, as a company that has seen firsthand the positive impact that these open-topic solicitations can have on the industry. These solicitations give the DoD a wider view into what technologies out there have a military use case, which brings more competition into the sphere and more innovative technology to the warfighter.
Open topic has been the bold result of AFWERX daring to try something new and innovative, and the attention and success it has driven is a huge testament to how things can move forward for every branch.
3. Additional Scrutiny of Foreign Risk Management
This is huge win to address a growing national security issue. The growing age of technology has allowed for a lot of innovation over the years, but also a lot of vulnerabilities. This can happen with technology on both the commercial and federal sides.
I see the addressing of these risks and the additional scrutiny of these countries that we see as a potential threat to be a step in the right direction, enhancing the nation’s security to continue to adapt to the potential risks introduced through the growth and innovation of technology (particularly as it pertains to this program).
***We plan to dive deeper into this in a later post.
4. Simplified Procedures to Accelerate Awards
We tend to focus on securing funding from the US government because they always pay their bills. However, the sales cycles can be longer with the federal government. At times, it can take months, if not over a year, to actually secure contract awards.
With this said, it is important and will likely be incredibly beneficial to have new processes in place to better streamline this process and accelerate awards with the goal of 90 days.
The hope is that this will likely provide more incentive and lower barriers for technologies interested in working with the DoD.
5. The GAO (Government Accountability Office) Required Study of the Program
We are always an advocate of accountability, particularly in a program that we believe will yield results. With this in mind, we think that a required study of the program and further research will prove the program to be beneficial and could help weed out those who may be abusing the program.
SBIR mills are partially addressed by this requirement. We believe this could be a great step toward moving the needle further to better hone the program for those who can utilize it for its initial purpose and provide better technology to the DoD.
All this is to say, there is reason to celebrate in our industry as SBIR carries on and beneficial changes are implemented. We are excited to see what will become of this program and what great technologies will get into the hands of our warfighters in the years to come.