xTechSBIR Autonomy launches with cash prizes and awards up to $13.1M

By Daniel Smoot, Office of Army Prize Competitions and Army Applied SBIR ProgramMay 25, 2023

The U.S. Army’s xTechSBIR Autonomy Competition invites small businesses to propose advanced, automated-vehicle technologies that enhance the military’s multi-domain capabilities. (U.S. Army)
The U.S. Army’s xTechSBIR Autonomy Competition invites small businesses to propose advanced, automated-vehicle technologies that enhance the military’s multi-domain capabilities. (U.S. Army) (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

WASHINGTON – xTechSBIR Autonomy, the U.S. Army’s first autonomy-focused competition, is inviting small businesses to submit proposals regarding advanced, automated-vehicle technologies to enhance the military’s multidomain capabilities.

In coordination with the Army Applied Small Business Innovation Research program, the competition seeks to help develop and demonstrate working solutions from small businesses with world-class technologies capable of equipping key Soldier needs. While this is an open-topic competition, it will target solutions that support autonomous efforts, such as remote command, 360-degree situational awareness, target detection, and identification and sensor functionality.

“As we move to integrate ground and aerial robotic autonomous systems into Army organizations, it’s critical the Army increases its cross-country mobility and navigation through expanded automation,” said Nicole Fox, SBIR Program Analyst and Autonomy and Contested Logistics, Sustainment, Science and Technology Portfolio Manager for the Army Applied SBIR Program. “Technologies developed through the competition will enable our Soldiers to operate more effectively in complex, contested environments, while providing enhanced safety and security measures”

Ultimately, businesses that propose technologies addressing autonomous-vehicle challenges will participate in four rounds of competition, culminating in spring 2024, that will include:

Concept white paper

·        Applicants will submit a short, three-page concept white paper outlining the technology concept, viability, dual-use case and benefit to the Army with an optional 3–5-minute video. Following submission, a panel of Department of Defense experts from across the science and technology ecosystem will review the proposals and select up to 40 companies to receive a $5,000 cash prize and advance to the technology pitch round.

Technology pitches

·        First-round winners will conduct an in-person pitch to a panel of Army and DoD experts at Grace’s Quarters in Maryland regarding their technology concepts and team capabilities. The panel of judges will then select up to 20 finalists to receive a $15,000 cash prize each and an invitation to apply for a potential Phase I Small Business Innovation Research contract.

Phase I SBIR proposal

·        Following technology pitches, businesses will receive a separate SBIR announcement providing detailed instructions on how to apply for a six-month, Phase I SBIR contract award worth up to $250,000. During this phase, companies will coordinate with Army experts to develop and evaluate their technology concepts.

Phase II SBIR demonstrations

·        Following the six-month period of performance, the remaining companies will perform live demonstrations to a panel of key DoD experts. Via the demonstrations, up to four companies will be eligible to apply for SBIR Phase II funding of up to $1.9 million throughout a 24-month period of performance.

Eligible small businesses that wish to participate must submit their three-page white papers by 5 p.m. EDT on June 29, 2023. For all competition-related information, please visit the xTechSBIR Autonomy Competition page.

Established in 2018, the Army xTech Program strives to integrate small and nontraditional businesses into the Army’s science and technology ecosystem. It provides opportunities for direct exposure to laboratories, program executive offices and program managers across the Army.

Participants receive detailed feedback from Army and DoD stakeholders and have access to training, mentorship and other support infrastructure. This helps guide businesses through the competition and determine where their solutions best align within the Army.

The xTech Program holds several competitions per year. These include open-topic competitions such as xTechSearch as well as technology-specific competitions that target key Army challenges. For additional xTech information, please visit the Army xTech competition website.

The Army Applied SBIR Program releases contract opportunities on a rolling basis to respond to the Army’s current and expected warfighting technology needs. For eligibility information and a list of open solicitations, please visit the Army Applied SBIR website.

The Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology offers the American Soldier a decisive advantage in any mission by developing, acquiring, fielding and sustaining the world’s finest equipment and services. It also leverages its technologies and capabilities to meet current and future Soldier needs. To learn more, you can visit the ASA(ALT) website.