Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division, Patuxent River,Maryland — For finding ways to increase the number of first time awardees, decrease contract time of award, and expand technology sustainment initiatives, the Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) team earned the 2016 Department of Defense (DoD) Vanguard Award for Small Business Innovation Research. The award recognizes innovative approaches, outstanding support, and implemented processes that significantly advance the SBIR and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs.

Transitioning small business technologies to full military use is the goal of the SBIR and STTR programs. Through a three-phase system, the programs are the primary vehicle for NAVAIR to fund small companies to perform innovative research, and research and development projects. Phase I is typically a feasibility study phase to evaluate the scientific merit of the idea and/or perform small scale testing. Phase II is a demonstration phase in which prototypes are built and tested. Phase III is where non-SBIR (government or non-government) capital is used to pursue federal transition and commercial applications for SBIR projects.

“Great people and great work,” said Rear Adm. Shane Gahagan, Commander, Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division (NAWCAD), and assistant commander for research and engineering, NAVAIR, in the award presentation here July 25. “Because of your work, we have more money being awarded in Phase I which means more small companies, who often don’t have huge cash reserves, can participate, which really means more research and more technology to solve fleet problems. The impact of your work will be felt in the years to come as technologies to help our warfighters make their way into the fleet faster.”

In collaboration with the contracting team at NAWCAD Lakehurst, New Jersey, the SBIR team in one year reduced the time in Navy Phase II contracts awarded to an average of seven months, down from 15 months — a 53% improvement in award time, according to Donna Attick, SBIR program manager. She also noted that the work of the SBIR team reduced the “time without funding” between Phase I and II contracts.

The team also worked to get more small businesses interested in applying for SBIR funding and to increase first-time awardee success by initiating an outreach effort and visiting small businesses that are new to the SBIR process.

“During this initiative, our technical points of contact visited 40% of new firms, and 28.5% of new firms were selected for Phase II awards,” Attick said. “In post-visit surveys, firms noted that the outreach helped them to better understand the process and what products were needed, and gave them direction on producing a better product for the Navy.”

For more information about SBIR and how to apply, visit