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As many have seen and heard, the Air Force has decided to remove itself from the Department of Defense Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) 20.2 cycle. I’d like to take a minute to share my perspective and what it means for small businesses.

Lately, the Air Force has made some major muscle movements to enhance the COVID-19 response. Originally scheduled as the 20.1 Direct to Phase II (D2P2) the 20.R D2P2 closed just last week. Not only was this solicitation open to a wide assortment of dual use technologies (those that benefit both the Air Force and the private sector), there was an additional last minute request for technologies focused on COVID response.

With the 20.R solicitation closed, the AFWERX team is now busy evaluating and awarding potentially 100+ Phase II contracts valued up to $1 million each. I suspect that the Air Force is also using this time to play catch up on hundreds of millions of dollars of awards from previous cycles.  There’s a lot to do.

It’s certainly frustrating, as I believe SBIR and the 20.2 cycle would have been an incredible opportunity for the Air Force to step up to the plate and support small businesses, while funding innovative work in the process. Expect to see them back next cycle, as 20.3 is just around the corner with a scheduled August pre-release. The funding for the SBIR program is mandated by law so it’s our best guess that we’ll see additional topics, funding, and awards next cycle. It should be something to look forward to.

So what’s a small business to do? The good news is that there is no shortage of opportunities available to pursue in the meantime. There’s a current AF Commercial Solutions Opening (CSO) for technologies focusing on COVID-19 response. In addition, there is an out of cycle Navy SBIR, as well as a wide variety of topics and agencies still participating in the 20.2 DoD SBIR cycle.

This is just a small sample of ongoing opportunities within the DoD and there are many more from other federal agencies such as the National Science Foundation. It’s time to roll up your sleeves, start proposing, and seize the opportunity to win funding during these turbulent times and increase support to your small business!