WASHINGTON – Collaborating with small businesses is an integral part of Army Small Business Innovation Research CATALYST, an initiative led by the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology that is leveraging $75 million in matching and SBIR program funds to spur disruptive innovation across the federal government.
Unveiled at the October 2023 Association of the United States Army Annual Meeting and Exposition by the director of Army Prize Competitions and Army Applied SBIR Program, Dr. Matt Willis, Army SBIR CATALYST will expand on the successful pilot program launched earlier this year. The second iteration of CATALYST will broaden eligibility to firms that previously received SBIR and Small Business Technology Transfer contracts, maximizing coordination and transition between small businesses, technology integrators and federal stakeholders.
Army SBIR CATALYST will require interested Army transition partners to recommend SBIR projects for the program via an application process. Additionally, federal agencies outside the Army can work with an Army transition partner to submit a CATALYST application with the topic and recommended small business.
“Last year’s shared risk structure proved to be a tremendous success in driving collaboration with the defense industrial base,” Willis said. “By building off this model – and establishing partnerships upfront – we can offer greater resources while also driving prototype development, testing and transition across the Army and other agencies.”
Once the Army SBIR Program approves the Army transition partner’s CATALYST application for program compliance, the program will send a request for proposal to each recommended small business. The Army transition partner may submit the CATALYST application anytime during the rolling open-period window starting Veterans Day, Nov. 11.
The Army SBIR Program will select up to five small businesses to award in fiscal 2024. These proposed solutions must fall within one of the following tech ecosystems: artificial intelligence and machine learning, autonomy, climate and clean tech, contested logistics and sustainment, immersive and wearables, and sensors.
Up to $75 million in contract awards
Originally announced by the Under Secretary of the Army Hon. Gabe Camarillo at the October 2022 AUSA Annual Meeting and Exposition, the Army SBIR CATALYST Program is one of five initiatives – alongside the Army Tech Marketplace, IP Cadre, Project VISTA and xTechPrime competition – incentivizing partnerships with nontraditional businesses to drive innovation and transform concepts into equipment in the hands of Soldiers.
As one of the Under Secretary’s efforts, the revamped Army SBIR CATALYST Program will expand the pilot and build on the Army SBIR Program’s existing contract structure to offer small businesses resources for advanced prototype development, testing and transition.
Army SBIR CATALYST’s reinvigorated contract structure will offer up to five small businesses multiphase funding opportunities starting in fiscal 2024. The five awards will include any combination of Phase II ($15 million), Direct to Phase II ($15 million), Sequential Phase II ($15 million), or Phase II Enhancement ($14 million) awards.
Phase II, Direct to Phase II and Sequential Phase II contracts will include $1 million in SBIR funding each during the base award period. To receive a Phase II, Sequential Phase II, or Phase II Enhancement contract, the small business contractor must have executed the base award no earlier than fiscal 2020. Phase II Enhancement awards will also require the small business to have the matching investment at the time of award, and therefore, will not include a base award.
Following the initial base award – or the matching investment for Phase II Enhancement selectees – businesses can leverage Army SBIR CATALYST enhancement funds for their Phase II projects worth up to $7 million in SBIR capital, $3.5 million in integrator financing and up to $3.5 million from Army transition partners.
This 2:1:1 funding ratio provides small businesses with a potential $15 million investment, driving the total fiscal 2024 contract pool up to $75 million among the five small businesses. Via Army SBIR CATALYST’s new funding and submission process, the program will leverage this capital to buy down risk for the Army’s larger, more scalable acquisition profile in fiscal 2024 and beyond.
About the Army SBIR Program
The Army SBIR Program provides Phase I contracts to small businesses and nontraditional vendors whose solutions offer technical merit and commercial potential. The program awards Phase II and Direct to Phase II contracts to firms that can address Army needs with demonstration-ready solutions.
Small business selectees gain valuable access to technical, acquisition and operational subject matter experts. These specialists guide and inform businesses of the Army’s technological needs as the firms enter the Army research and development ecosystem. Companies can capitalize on collaborating with technical points of contact who serve as a resource for businesses while they mature their technologies for eventual insertion into Army acquisition programs.
The Army SBIR Program releases contract opportunities ad hoc to respond to current and anticipated warfighting technology needs. For eligibility information and a list of open topics, please visit the Army SBIR|STTR website.
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 environment by developing, acquiring, fielding and sustaining the world’s finest equipment and services. For more information, visit the ASA(ALT) web page and follow @ArmyASAALT.