The U.S. Army is looking for the most innovative solutions from small businesses for artificial intelligence and machine learning, which have the potential to solve problems of ground warfare for the U.S. Soldier.
The U.S. Army is looking for the most innovative solutions from small businesses for artificial intelligence and machine learning, which have the potential to solve problems of ground warfare for the U.S. Soldier. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Army is releasing contracts for innovative small-business solutions in artificial intelligence and machine learning to address ground warfare challenges for the U.S. Soldier.

The Army Applied Small Business Innovation Research Program released two Direct to Phase II contract opportunities for U.S.-based small businesses to provide high-tech solutions for “Sensor Synthetic Data Generation” and “Datalink-Enabled AI for Fires Optimization,” and one Phase I opportunity for “Artificial Intelligence-in Automated Scrap Inspection ‘MVM.’”

A Direct to Phase II award is worth up to $1.7 million and 18 months in duration and is available to small businesses that have completed the proof-of-concept stage—meaning they can skip Phase I and start Phase II with Army SBIR funding. A Phase I award is for $250,000 and up to four months in duration for small companies to establish the scientific, technical, commercial merit and feasibility of their proposed innovations.

This is the first topic release under the new Transition Broker Team construct of the Army Applied SBIR Program, in which Soldiers, researchers, technologists and acquisition officers use technology scouting to identify emerging capabilities from industry that can contribute to the Army’s critical needs. The Transition Broker Team prioritizes Army program activities and quickly responds to emerging capability needs and business realities, so topics can be released on a rapid cycle. In this case, the AI/ML Transition Broker Team focused on cyber defense, predictive behaviors and biometrics, areas identified as core Army applications.

“We are curating our problem sets directly from our Army customers and transition partners,” said Dr. Matt Willis, director of the Army Applied SBIR and Prize Competitions, Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army for Research and Technology. “The newly created Transition Broker Team construct centralizes and synchronizes the SBIR portfolio to ensure the technical need defines the award, not the other way around.”

Army acquisition officers and technical experts from across the Army enterprise support the Army Applied SBIR Transition Broker Teams to identify where small businesses can inject innovation in their acquisition and research and development programs.

“The topic ‘Datalink-Enabled AI for Fires Optimization’ is a broad area that covers multiple areas for innovation and insertion points into the fires structure of attack to enable enhanced capability, improved performance and speed of battle,” said Andre Aklian, U.S. Army DEVCOM Armaments Center. “Small businesses are the right choice for this because of their ability to rapidly innovate and develop outside-of-the-box concepts leveraging the very active artificial intelligence and machine learning community.”

The proposal submission window for qualified small businesses opened Oct. 26 and will close Nov. 30 at noon EST. Full proposal packages must be submitted through the DSIP Portal. Additional information can be found on the Army SBIR|STTR website.

“AI is a strategic area of interest as identified within the National Defense Authorization Act and several federal executive orders,” Willis said. “We are seeking to increase our AI and ML focus within the Army Applied SBIR Program to better support technology acquisition for the future.”

To capitalize on small-business innovation and respond to important DoD and Army modernization needs, the Army Applied SBIR Program aims to help small businesses overcome the inherent challenges they face when engaging in government research and development compared to their larger counterparts.

The program releases contract opportunities on an ad hoc, rolling basis to maximize the initial cash flow for small businesses while minimizing the time to contract. The awards offer unique opportunities for small businesses to interact with Soldiers and technical subject matter experts, and to receive feedback on their technology maturation.

“Artificial intelligence, which supports technology, is truly needed by the Army,” said William Truran from the DEVCOM Armaments Center. “We need this technology to create safer conditions, minimize human presence in hazardous environments, lessen energetic material escaping from processing, and save money through more efficient operations.”