WASHINGTON – The U.S. Army announced several initiatives aimed at boosting small-business collaboration and providing American Soldiers with critical, next-generation technology solutions.
At the Association of the United States Army annual meeting and exposition, Hon. Gabe Camarillo, the Under Secretary of the Army, announced strategic efforts to expand partnerships between prime defense contractors, small businesses and the Army — strengthening not only the U.S. industrial base, but also national defense.
“The strength of our nation is rooted in a strong commercial economy comprised of small businesses that are ready, willing and able to help us build an enduring advantage,” said Dr. Matthew Willis, director of Army Prize Competitions and Army Applied SBIR Program, within the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology, which is overseeing several of these new initiatives that span the Army enterprise.
As part of the strategy, the Army will direct a portion of its annual Small Business Innovation Research contract funding and xTech Program prize money — which exceeds $300 million annually — to accelerate technological development with private companies, venture capital firms and large defense contractors.
Increased awareness and transparency among stakeholders about these developments, as well as the protection of small-business intellectual property, will also be at the forefront of the Army’s efforts, which include:
· The SBIR Catalyst Program: The Army’s SBIR program will direct 15 percent of its annual SBIR funding to accelerate technological development with private companies, venture capital firms and prime contractors. While the standard Army SBIR Program will continue to release research and development solicitations on a rolling basis, the SBIR Catalyst Program will require matching funds from the Army SBIR Program, the Army customers that will be acquiring the technology, private equity firms and defense contractors. This will drive potential contract award funding up to 10 times larger than the standard SBIR contract — as large as $15 million to $25 million — while reducing the risks associated with the transition process.
· The Army R&D Marketplace: The Army will deploy a searchable on-demand portal that will give small businesses insight into existing companies and technologies, potential for key collaboration opportunities, and accelerate the speed of innovation in the Army’s major weapon systems platforms. This will improve awareness and transparency among stakeholders — which include Army Program Executive Offices, laboratories and integrators — as well as the likelihood that technologies pursued through Army research, development, testing and evaluation are incorporated into an existing program or operational setting.
· The xTech Prime Competition: Through the xTech Prime competition, the Army will provide cash prizes and incentives to prime contractors partnered with one or more small businesses. The Army xTech Program is the Army’s flagship prize competition that increases business inclusivity and links innovative companies directly with the Army innovation and acquisition enterprise. Winners will be eligible for a follow-on contract for prototype development and deployment, which will include Soldier-friendly and impactful technologies.
The Army will develop these initiatives through 2023, with an assessment of the pilot in 2024.
These Army-wide efforts will further enhance the xTech and Army SBIR Programs — which have evolved to be more adaptive and responsive to the needs of small businesses and Army acquisition and sustainment programs — through increased risk mitigations, guidance through the Army’s research and development ecosystem, greater funding, and protection to intellectual property.
“Building the Army of 2030 requires close examination of our relationship with industry, and decisive action to ensure the health and resiliency of the industrial base,” Willis said. “Developing, deploying and retaining military civilian talent, as well as procuring state-of-the-art disruptive technologies, will give our Soldier’s the decisive edge in the evolving global environment.”
The Army SBIR Program provides valuable opportunities for small businesses to interact with technical, acquisition and operational subject-matter experts, who provide insight into technological needs and guide small businesses through the Army research and development ecosystem.
The Army SBIR Program releases contract opportunities on a rolling basis to respond to the Army’s current and anticipated warfighting technology needs. For a list of open topics and eligibility, visit www.armysbir.army.mil.
The Army xTech Program integrates small businesses and non-traditional vendors into the Army’s science and technology ecosystem by providing opportunities for direct exposure to laboratories, program executive offices and program managers from across the Army. Participants receive detailed feedback from Army and DOD stakeholders and have access to training, mentorship, and other support infrastructure as they progress through the competition to determine how best to align their technology solutions with real users and buyers within the Army.
The xTech Program holds several competitions per year, from open-topic competitions such as xTechSearch, to technology-specific competitions targeting Army needs and challenges. For all competition information, visit www.xtechsearch.army.mil.
The Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology leverages technologies and capabilities to provide U.S. soldiers a decisive advantage in any mission by developing, acquiring, fielding and sustaining the world’s finest equipment and services. For more information, visit army.mil/asaalt and follow @ArmyASAALT.