Think Big, Start Small: Navy SBIR/STTR Program Can Help Advance Your Ideas

By Sierra Jones, Office of Naval Research

ARLINGTON, Va.—Qualcomm. iRobot. You might have heard of these companies—one making a huge impact on your wireless technology, the other keeping your home clean. But what you may not know is that they have deep roots in the Department of Defense (DoD), via the Small Business Innovation Research, or SBIR, program.

And it’s these two success stories, among many others, that brought together SBIR and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) leaders from the Departments of the Navy and Defense—along with representatives from across government agencies—for the third annual SBIR/STTR Training Workshop, held recently in Baltimore, Maryland.

“All it takes is one entrepreneur and the right resource to turn an innovative idea into a solution to our technical challenges and an economic success story,” said Robert L. Smith, director of the Department of the Navy (DoN) SBIR/STTR program. “This training workshop ensures the naval and defense SBIR/STTR community is armed with the latest tools, knowledge and best practices, so we can be the resource that helps and encourages these small businesses as they look to engage in high-impact research and development.”

The SBIR/STTR program was established in 1982 by Congress, and is coordinated by the Small Business Administration (SBA). The SBA oversees 11 government agencies participating in the program, including the DoD—as well as the Navy program, based out of the Office of Naval Research.

The goal of the program is to provide funding, typically in the form of contracts, to companies with promising and innovative ideas to engage with federal research and development agencies through SBIR—or with colleges, universities and research institutions via STTR, on technologies that have dual-use potential in the military and commercial worlds. For the Navy, that potential technology should focus on critical naval acquisition program and operational needs.

“We serve as advocates for our naval technology customers and want to invest in technology that will make a difference to our Sailors and Marines in the field,” said Smith. “Secondarily, we also want to invest in, and provide small businesses with, opportunities to grow and succeed. The SBIR/STTR program allows us to do both.”

Advocates note that the Navy and Marine Corps benefit from the innovative ideas the SBIR/STTR office discovers and supports.

“If a naval program officer has a technological need, the SBIR/STTR office is a great place to start searching for a solution,” said Smith. “From battlefield robots to eyewear coatings to artificial intelligence, we’ve got a long history of technologies that have served as jumping off points for projects.”

Program officers can reach out to the SBIR/STTR office to discuss upcoming requirements. Three times a year, the DoN SBIR/STTR community releases topics, known as broad agency announcements, for small businesses to submit proposals. These research topics are based on mission-oriented needs and requirements of the fleet and force.

Topics typically open in January, May and September. The first fiscal year release for 2018 will occur on Nov. 29, 2017.

More information on the program can be found on the DoN SBIR/STTR website at

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