Army seeks small-business innovation for clean tech and autonomy

By Stephanie PriceApril 15, 2022

The U.S. Army is looking for the most innovative solutions from small businesses in autonomy and clean-tech materials, which have the potential to solve problems for the U.S. Soldier. (U.S. Army)
The U.S. Army is looking for the most innovative solutions from small businesses in autonomy and clean-tech materials, which have the potential to solve problems for the U.S. Soldier. (U.S. Army) (Photo Credit: Sgt. Thomas Mort) VIEW ORIGINAL

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Army is looking for small-business innovations in autonomy and clean-tech materials that provide critical solutions for the U.S. Soldier.

The Army Applied Small Business Innovation Research Program released one Direct to Phase II contract opportunity with awards up to $1.7 million and 18 months in duration, and one Phase I contract opportunity with awards up to $250,000 and six months in duration. These new topics include:

·      Bio-Based Fabric/Material/Textiles for Military Applications: To create a domestically grown, environment-renewing bio-based material to replace current seat belts, seat covers and canvas covers that achieve matching or exceeding safety, fit, form, function, enhanced supportability and increased camouflaging abilities.

·      Perception Sensing Advancements for Autonomous Ground Systems: To improve the performance of perception sensors used for the autonomous mobility of ground systems.

Customers from across the Army enterprise produced the first organically created contract opportunity, “Perception Sensing Advancements for Autonomous Ground Systems,” through the Army Applied SBIR transition broker teams. These TBTs bring together Soldiers, researchers, technologists and acquisition officers to identify new contract opportunities poised for transition and commercialization for small businesses.

“The Army can be siloed in many ways,” said Lt. Col. Marcus White, deputy of Army Prize Competitions and the Applied SBIR Program, and lead for the Autonomy TBT​. “It’s exciting to see that the TBT construct facilitates and provides a means for multiple Army customers to work together and create topics that intersect critical Army needs with major technology ecosystems in the private industry.”

The newly formed Clean Tech TBT also created its first topic, “Bio-Based Fabric/Material/Textiles for Military Applications.” Using technology scouting to identify emerging capabilities that contribute to critical Army needs, the Clean Tech TBT aligned its technology priorities with the overall Army Climate Strategy, including energy storage, clean energy, clean micro-grid, electric transportation and clean industry.

The Army leverages an ad hoc release cycle, often monthly, to continuously produce contract opportunities for small businesses. For clean tech, the Army Applied SBIR Program has reserved $25 million for fiscal year 2022 to fund Phase I awards to establish the scientific, technical and commercial merit and feasibility of the innovations, and Phase II awards for their development, demonstration and delivery.

“We need to be agile and responsive to turn over game-changing solutions that are not only innovative, but ‘green’ when they can be,” said Dr. Matt Willis, director of Army Prize Competitions and the Army Applied SBIR Program in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology. “By partnering with small businesses, who are wheelhouses for innovation, we can develop, deliver and quickly transition technology that addresses climate change — while benefiting the Army, as well as the small businesses.”

The Army SBIR program also offers a valuable opportunity for small businesses to interact with Soldiers and technical and operational subject matter experts, who provide insight into technology needs and guide small businesses through the Army research and development ecosystem. Small businesses are teamed up with technical points of contact who serve as a resource for companies as they mature their technologies for insertion into Army programs of record.

“The U.S. Army conducts operations in a wide range of environments and weather conditions,” said Brian L. Graham, robotics engineer with Army Program Executive Office Ground Combat Systems and technical point of contact for the autonomy topic. “In order to effectively employ unmanned systems wherever the Army operates, the Army needs sensing solutions that can support perception in the variety and range of conditions that the Army could employ unmanned ground systems.”

The pre-release period for the new topics is April 14-28, 2022. During this time, companies can submit questions to the Defense SBIR/STTR Innovation Portal and via email. Qualified small businesses can submit proposals beginning April 28 and ending June 14 at noon EDT. Full proposal packages must be submitted through the DSIP Portal. Additional information, including eligibility information and how to apply, can be found on the Army SBIR|STTR website.