Defining the Valley of Death

-As shared by Katie Bilek

What is the Valley of Death? According to the Defense Acquisition University (DAU), it is “a phenomenon faced by many startups when trying to do business with the Department of Defense … where a vendor transitions a prototype or commercially available product to a DoD contract.”

This acquisition gap period typically lasts for 1-2 years, during which time that startup – starved for contracts, cash, and endurance for working on the government’s timeline – may wither and die in the proverbial desert valley.

At the time this post was written, Deputy Secretary of Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks had tasked an innovation steering group to map out this transition process from prototype to contract with the goal of identifying bottlenecks and cliffs that a small business may encounter. In theory, if those milestones are addressed, we can do more tactically to shepherd these fragile startups through the sweltering valley into technology transition and real procurement dollars.

A 2015 GAO report noted the Valley of Death “exists because the acquisition community often requires a higher level of technology maturity than the science and technology community is willing to fund and develop.” While a more recent update from GAO points to progress on this front, the problem still persists.

So, what’s going on behind the scenes during those 1-2 years after the prototype has been completed? Simply put – acquisition bureaucracy. Now – before we all pile onto the bandwagon of bashing our federal procurement system (as irresistible as that may be), this very system has built major programs of record, deployed technologies and systems across decades of military initiatives, and fielded trillions of dollars for industry to support federal missions.

For those of us in industry, we cheekily revert to the phrase that this is “good enough for government work.” But, given our current geopolitical positioning, the sobering reality is that the most mission-critical technologies, developments and initiatives are simply being protracted, suffocated ,and seemingly left to fade away.

The Valley of Death is real – nobody knows this better than those of us in industry. Let’s prioritize mitigating the impact of the Valley of Death so that we can continue to deliver the best solutions and technologies to the warfighter.

The Future of SBIR/STTR Programs & Information on SBIR Program Reauthorization

We all enjoy the opportunity to win new work – no one more so than the innovation community. We are constantly striving to create and adapt technologies and processes to create new solutions to support mission-critical endeavors. Recently, I joined a LinkedIn Live panel with other industry enthusiasts to discuss the current state of the SBIR/STTR program as we awaited the vote by the House of Representatives to determine exactly what would happen next. I was invited to join Matt “Mohawk” Denny 🧨, J.R. Mullis, Dr. Dolores Kuchina-Musina, Chelsea Meggitt, and Kathryn Logan 🐘 to discuss our individual experiences with these programs and the ecosystems we each support. You can watch the replay here: The Value of SBIR & STTR

Some key takeaways from the discussion include:

  1. The SBIR and STTR programs allow for government agencies and commercial companies to refine and adapt their technologies via research and development – typically as a solution for a specific agency challenge. Many companies have found success once they discover how the model can best work to support their initiatives. This has brought into light the current discussion surrounding “SBIR/STTR Mills,” or those companies known to produce mass quantities of revolving SBIR/STTR relevant work. As one of the panelists mentioned, some companies identified as possible SBIR/STTR Mills find themselves in that bucket unintentionally. They’ve discovered what works for their R&D process and have made it repeatable. They don’t want to be on the constant churn of Phase I and Phase II work, but they find that it is the best way to support their growing endeavors for innovation and technology development.
  2. The SBIR/STTR programs have come under fire recently and some important changes have emerged as a result. Most notably would be the SBIR/STTR requirements for small business eligibility. One new requirement demands all companies disclose any potential foreign risks, thereby limiting the security risks from small businesses who are utilizing foreign technology, materials, or who have individuals that may have significant foreign interests. The second involves minimum performance standards for experienced companies. The bill states that businesses who have received 50 or more Phase I awards over the last 5 years must have at least two Phase II awards per four Phase I awards or face a limit on the number of Phase I and Phase II awards they can receive in the next year following the substandard performance review. Additionally, where Phase II and Phase III awards come in, the bill would increase the amount of aggregate sales and investments per Phase II awards for those in the 50+ awards and 100+ awards categories.
  3. Many submission programs, government-wide, need an overhaul regarding the user experience. We had several individuals in the live video comments as well as our panelists who identified areas that could use improvement as part of the process as well as those who provided suggestions for future consideration. Many times, the agencies don’t recognize the plight of the user’s experience until it is identified – but more than pointing out a weakness, providing a potential solution may be the key to change. There’s no timetable on when this change might come to SBIR/STTR, but it’s best to be ready for the change when it happens.

Following our live video discussion, the Senate passed the SBIR Program Reauthorization, huzzah for small businesses! Fun fact – they passed it only two days before the program was set to lapse. Talk about down to the wire. The bill now goes to the President for his signature; once signed, the program is safe from expiration for the next three years. The new expiration date for the program will be September 30, 2025.

What does this mean for SBIR/STTR interested businesses? More reporting, so document everything, and more strict requirements on the outcomes of Phase I and Phase II awards. We at govmates are big fans of alternate procurement opportunities because we like to see businesses, especially the small and nontraditional ecosystem, win more work. SBIR/STTR provide valuable opportunities for small businesses, much like OTAs do. So, go forth and SBIR!

5 Tips for Conference Season 

-As shared by Meg Kerns.

“It’s the most wonderful time of the….” wait, scratch that, wrong season. But conference season is upon us. I had quite an informative conversation with Chelsea Meggitt of Collaborative Compositions about the best ways to make conference season work for you and your business. You can listen to the conversation in its entirety on the govmates podcast here. From that conversation and my personal experience, I’d like to share five tips that I found to be most actionable for small businesses going forward.  

  1. Have a Plan. There’s no willy or nilly here. You should know where you’re going, why you’re going, and who you’re planning to meet before you even slap down your company card for a ticket to each conference. What does the conference offer your business and how does it align with your future goals? This might be a chance to network or appear in person alongside a unicorn customer or potential teammates. It could also be to learn from industry or government leaders about a specific topic or vertical. Sometimes it’s only one of those and sometimes it’s both – but don’t overdo it. Additionally, “because everyone goes” is not a conference strategy. As part of your plan, reach out to those in your network who are also planning to attend. If you’re traveling cross country, maybe squeeze in a day beforehand if you can to catch up with local people. Coffee meetings, quick, scheduled chats in a nearby lunch location, or quiet couch space may yield better results than ten unplanned booth visits. Tan Wilson (Entellect, LLC) also recently mentioned creating a slack or other messaging channel to connect with peers throughout the event for popular parties, event tidbits, and takeaways. Use the value of connection to get the most out of your event attendance.
  2. Prepare Your Collateral. Business cards, yes – but make them memorable. No one is going to care if it’s “eggshell with Romalian lettering” or the “subtle coloring and tasteful thickness,” but they will care if they’re useful. I always recommend having some space on the back, in a corner, wherever, with a light color that makes it easy for people to take a note. This allows them to directly connect you with the conversation you had for better follow-up. Do this to their cards as well. Write a note about the conversation or how you need to follow up directly on the card, so you’ll be able to better keep things collated. If you have a one-pager or handout, make it memorable and useful – a checklist, a fact sheet, something that they will want to hold on to rather than a list of your capabilities. 
  3. Know the Layout of the Event Space. Print out the exhibition hall floor plan (normally available on their event websites in advance) because it typically has company names and booth numbers. From there I highlight or star the ones I know I want to stop by whether it’s to visit with peers or for business-building opportunities. I go a step further and include the agenda if I can as well. I’ll add important sessions to my calendar with a 20-minute reminder set ahead of time to ensure I don’t miss out on sessions or speakers I intend to attend. Determine how you’re going to get from session to session, where the lunch or networking spaces will be, and how you plan to utilize any downtimes you may have. (Though truthfully, I rarely find downtime at conferences, especially the good ones.)
  4. Pack Smart. You’re going to be in sessions, meetings, or the exhibit hall all day, and chances are if you’re budget conscious, you’re not staying directly on location at the event. If you don’t have a “home base” booth or otherwise for the event you’re going to want to have everything on hand. I don’t recommend a computer unless you know you’re going to be doing dual-hand typing or similar tasks. If you bring your computer all the way to an event and haven’t pulled it out during the day, even once, it’s just an expensive paperweight that is taking up valuable swag space. My go-to is usually a backpack/bag that has my file of important conference information (my agenda and floor plan notes), phone, charger, and/or power bank, headphones for any calls that come up, business cards, a small notebook, and a couple of pens. I would also suggest a refillable water bottle, ChapStick, and your wallet (most likely with your vaccine card these days). More intense tasks such as email or conference follow-up can be done back in your hotel room or home office where you can kick off your shoes and have a snack while you work. You’re there to cover serious conference ground (hello step-counters) not to be an office supply pack-mule. 
  5. Follow Up with a Purpose. I send LinkedIn requests to those I’ve had a quick conversation with at a booth or in passing directly following the meeting. I have a note saved on my phone that I can copy and quickly adjust to mention pieces of our discussion that seemed memorable and relevant. This can be done on the walk between booths or while waiting for new sessions to begin (hence the phone charger mentioned previously). The individualized touch is what makes the connection healthier and more valuable to all parties involved. Post-event I categorize my new business card collection by task value: 1. Those who need specific, direct follow-up come first, followed by 2. Those who have a general parallel or mutual interest but no immediate actions to keep the connection fresh and 3. Those who require a handoff or introduction to someone in the company or elsewhere. Note that I’m not condoning the mass import to your CRM for next week’s newsletter blast, but I would recommend including an earlier newsletter in your follow-up and asking if they’d like to be added to future outreach communications.  

Whittling this list down to just five important things proved to be a difficult task as there are a variety of ways to find value in the conference and networking circuit for our industry. I would encourage you to try out one or two at a time to see where the value exists for your flavor of connection and growth. For more tips, I encourage you to listen to the govmates Next Gen podcast (linked above) and follow the conference savvy connections you may have on LinkedIn (don’t forget to add govmates to that list). We’ll see you on the conference scene!  

Making it Easier for Small Businesses to Succeed in GovCon

-As shared by Stephanie Alexander

I recently wrote an article about why it’s so freaking hard for small businesses to succeed in GovCon. It stirred up a lot of comments including a whole part 2 that we’ll write about in the future. But for today, let’s take the opposite approach. What can we do to make it easier for our small businesses to successfully compete and bid in the GovCon space?  

Here are some non-acquisition changes that we think would help: 

  • Stop handing out Kool-Aid. STOP telling every SDVOSB or minority-owned or woman-owned business out there that it’s the world’s largest market, they have contracts specifically set up just for your category, etc., etc. Let’s educate folks on how to utilize these socio-economic designations as tools in their arsenal, but let’s first make sure they have the business basics in place.
  • Past Performance. We put so much emphasis on whether we’ve done the job successfully before and how we demonstrate it to the government. While we agree this is important, let’s try to connect some dots on how doing work successfully in one area can lead to a higher probability of success in another. Let’s give some of our small businesses some latitude in how they can translate their capabilities into past performance.
  • Moola. It takes forever to get under contract and collect revenue in GovCon.  While we understand that bankers don’t want to take risks, how about being more willing to lend smaller amounts to keep people’s lights on? Business owners must also be educated on what that means….and be willing to take the risk associated with signing up for these loans.
  • Supporting bigger small businesses (size being relative). I think the SBA, PTAC, and SCORE all do a great job of educating newbies to the field. They provide endless resources and can offer excellent advice.  But where people fall down is after they have a few successful wins (say $5-15M in revenue). This is where growth comes into play. The CEO cannot continue to do everything, you are beyond hiring your friends and your relationships have yielded a couple subKs. What’s next??   Providing some next level resources targeted at these companies would be extremely useful as people are beholden to whatever advice that they receive, whether that be someone at a networking event or their trusted advisers. Sometimes it’s not always the best.
  • Transparency and Honesty. No one wants to dampen an individual’s enthusiasm for starting their own company. It’s the American Dream and we are here for it! But there are some folks that either aren’t ready, don’t have the connections, or quite frankly, would be much better players on someone else’s team than starting their own. Some days having the harder conversations or at least providing another point of view is the best gift you can give.  

These are just a few ideas on how we could make it a kinder, gentler place for small businesses within GovCon. This is not a place where you can “get rich quick,” but you can build a thriving, successful business if you have the right tools in place. Let’s open the conversation. What ideas do you have? What have you seen be successful? 

How Technical Companies Win Proposals – Learn How to Write a Winning Proposal

-As shared by Meg O’Hara.

govmates previously co-hosted an exclusive training and education session on the topic of writing compelling proposals with SME Tan Wilson of Entellect. We had a lively discussion that brought about some points that I believe our technical industry, as a whole, might find interesting.  

The biggest thing I’ve noticed when talking to companies with highly technical and very innovative solutions is that they want to talk about the process of their “thing.” Whatever it is that they’ve created. They’re spending most of their discussion time talking about features instead of benefits. To write a winning proposal, it’s crucial to focus on providing solutions to customer questions and emphasizing the benefits rather than just demonstrating the technical prowess of the solution. We’ll get there; cool your jets.  

Here are a few things for you to know before you jump full force into a proposal.

Know Your Customer: First, you need to build a profile of your customer, so you’re better prepared to answer questions about who they are, what keeps them awake in the wee hours of the morning, and how you can better their lives while allowing them to keep their nest egg intact. Much like humans in general, system integrators want to know “what’s in it for me?” While that may feel harsh, take their perspective into consideration quickly. They have a problem that is dominating their tasks and outputs, they see a few companies that can help them solve it, and time is usually of the essence. Let’s not waste that time with a song and dance when a quick coffee meeting or zoom call could demonstrate capability in less time. How can you write a winning proposal without knowing who it is you’re making the proposal to? When the government wants to find a government contractor, they want to get someone who already understands the issues and solutions necessary for the contract.

Know Your Competition: Sorry to say, but the likelihood that someone does something similar to you, especially in this space where we know and understand the innovative needs of the government, is remarkably high. But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a niche that your company fits perfectly. There will also be things that your competition does, claims, or believes that you can highlight as a vulnerability. As Tan says, “Don’t be afraid to throw a little shade.” Customers don’t like risk, so if you can highlight something that’s not necessarily a strength, don’t be afraid to do so, professionally. GovCon proposal management is all about what you can offer that the competition can’t, don’t be afraid to lean on your strong points if it will win you the contract, especially if the competition can’t replicate what you do.

Know the Time and Place for Metrics: Much like you wouldn’t add the frosting to a cupcake before baking it, don’t lead with the metrics. Let them support your past performance and your experience rather than being the driving force. When you’ve done the work to provide a helpful solution that the government has requested, THEN it will be time to add your proof points into the mix. Don’t jump into it too soon as you might miss your best opportunity. Timing is crucial to GovCon proposal management, knowing when to sprinkle in your metrics can make a world of difference.

So, how does all of this help technology companies to win proposals?
Hopefully, it reminds the technology-minded people in our industry to focus on the requirements and the expectations for an RFP. GovCon proposals aren’t the time to get creative with your approach. Save that for your website, slide deck, and marketing collateral. Do the customers and contracting officers a favor and simply follow the directions they’ve outlined for you. It should also be noted that customers and contracting officers don’t often have the same technical experience as those developing the solutions being presented, so keeping your vernacular at an industry-standard level is appreciated.  

Go forth and win!  

The Role of Systems Integrators in GovCon

-As shared by Katie Bilek.

At govmates, we know a thing or two about teaming.  Since our inception, we’ve made over 32,000 matches and nearly 8,000 teaming introductions; a majority of those introductions were made to large systems integrators or primes in seeking of non-traditional or small teaming partners across defense and civilian programs.   

Systems Integrators (SI’s) exist to help the government solve large, complex problems, and to integrate multiple systems and technologies that may not typically communicate with one another.   

That role has evolved over time – some traditional defense primes have evolved to include the role of an integrator their offerings (in many cases, via acquisition of smaller, mid-tier organizations).  Other private equity-backed platforms have emerged to be a more agile, innovative integrator with all the structural benefits of a robust organization while still maintaining a lean mindset.   

The SI’s that will emerge as true leaders in the federal contracting community are those that embrace a forward-thinking mindset. They invest in their relationships, and ensure their partners have access to all the resources needed for success.  They incorporate Diversity, Equity and Inclusion into their processes, engaging partners in underrepresented communities.   And, they use their size as a force for good – one that can benefit both their government customers and their teaming partners. In teaming partner speak, we call that a win-win.   

Why is Working in GovCon so D@#n Hard?

-As shared by Stephanie Alexander

When I talk to someone who says they are starting a government contracting firm, I immediately ask them, why?!  For those of us who have been in the industry long enough, you may also have this knee-jerk reaction.  Why in Pete’s name would you want to enter this industry and deal with all the things that we do??

Intellectually, I know it’s because it’s one of the biggest industries in the world. It has steady, longer contracts and it helps serve a mission.  

While all of that is great you should also know the following: 

  • Lead time.  Our procurements take FOREVER.  Like literally forever (or so it seems).  They get pushed out, they get extended, they get cancelled for no perceivable reason, they get protested, they get overruled, they get out of favor with the latest political appointee, they get unfunded in the budget.  In short, it’s one of the most stable industries in the US yet its subject to all of the above!  There is NO quick and easy procurement.  Know that you are building business for years out and that it takes longer than you think it should to actually see revenue (and therefore cash!) coming in the door.

  • Data.  We are one of the most heavily documented industries in the US.  We have notices for what’s been awarded and to whom, what’s coming out, what’s funded, who the contracting officers are, etc.  Yet with all of this data, it’s still a matter of deciphering what the data means before you can navigate the waters, and this takes time.  It takes a couple hard losses to realize that something seemed wired for the incumbent.  It takes a few bad teaming agreements before you realize your prime was just taking you off the streets.  This industry is super transparent however you have to understand what isn’t written down or included within the RFP as much as what’s in the RFP.
  • Margins.  They aren’t sexy.  And if they are, you are going to raise some eyebrows!  While we all understand that inherently, we should use the taxpayer’s money to its best advantage, this is often translated to lower margins for contractors.  Some government customers think margins are a dirty word.  They most likely haven’t had to have enough money to cover payroll before.  But regardless, you are capped in what you will earn on your work.
  • Talent.  Let’s face it, government contracting just isn’t known as the coolest industry in town. Yes, we are mission driven and sometimes that’s appealing.  But often for the younger employees, it’s being able to work on bleeding edge tech and learn and do cool stuff.  News alert: we aren’t known for being the risk takers and trying really new stuff.  Never mind that we’re subjected to the labor rates provided in a proposal submitted years ago, and we can’t just offer what the tech companies do.  This makes recruiting and retention particularly hard.   

We love govcon.  All day, every day.  To the point where we are pretty useless outside the industry.  But for those entering, come on in, but have clear eyes and clear expectations as you enter. 

Artificial Intelligence & Ethics in GovCon

-As shared by Hannah Altman

Artificial intelligence (AI) is changing the way we interact with the world; the applications seem limitless. But as with any nascent technology, its growth is moving faster than the speed of regulation. This is especially concerning when world leaders – the United States as well as its near-peer adversaries – are actively harnessing the power of AI for military applications. The way we treat and regulate AI as an offensive tool will have a profound impact on the space for decades to come, as other countries and even non-state actors follow suit in adopting AI into their security strategy. As the use of AI as a tool for lethality increases, the United States must lead the space by creating guidelines to prevent bias and advocate for the responsible use of AI.

Very basically, artificial intelligence refers to a computer or computing system trained by humans and designed to execute tasks. The more complex the task, the more hours people will need to spend on training the machine. No machine is designed to be unethical or biased – the people programming it bring with them their own personal biases and worldviews, intentionally or by accident. A prominent example of bias in artificial intelligence is the use of facial recognition in law enforcement settings. People of color – women of color especially – are more likely to be incorrectly identified by facial recognition software than their white counterparts. The cameras themselves don’t house inherent bias. But having a homogenous group of people (with a similar background and demographic) as the coders and decision-makers for the machine will lead to bias of omission. If the group of coders is not inclusive, if they do not themselves contain a variety of different perspectives and experiences, we cannot expect the AI to do that either.

So where does U.S. Artificial Intelligence strategy go from here? In 2020, the Department of Defense published its Ethical Principles for Artificial Intelligence, which stated that AI must responsible, equitable, traceable, reliable, and governable. Accomplishing this will necessarily need people and a lot of them. At govmates, we like to talk about the human element – goals are best accomplished when technology complements the work done by people and vice versa. Creating ethical AI means focusing on the people doing coding and the people working alongside the technology. In order for the data sets to be complete, they need to be inclusive. We need voices and perspectives that are currently being left out of the conversation. We need transparency in algorithms. The data is only as good as we make it, and right now there is room to make it a lot better.

Alternative Procurement Vehicles

-As shared by Meg Kerns

I’m adding to your buzzword-bingo card today. Let’s have a brief chat about OTs, SBIRs, and STTRs. Or Alternative Procurement Vehicles – Other ways of finding work available, especially to businesses specializing in a variety of topics who are working the research, development, and prototyping angle. And chances are, if you’re listening, you fit that niche.

Let’s start with the good ‘ole OTA. Here’s an important note to start. It’s not technically called an OTA – OTA Stands for Other Transaction Authority or the authority associated with other transactions, and when we refer to them they should be called OTs or just Other Transactions. Let’s face it, OTA is more fun to say, and it’s technically understood in normal govcon conversation.

In short- OTs are legally binding instruments that may be used to engage industry and academia for research and development or prototyping activities.

More than what they ARE, OTs are typically defined better as what they are NOT. OTs are not standard procurement contracts, grants, or cooperative agreements. Therefore, they’re not typically subject to FAR regulations YET they are still legal and encouraged.

OTs typically allow for more flexibility, greater speed (in theory), and access to innovative solutions in performing research and prototyping activities. Fun fact: you can also prototype a process that broadens the scope of opportunities as well. On average, and this varies by technology vertical, from white paper to award can take as little as two months in some cases but please note that is NOT the standard – I don’t want to promise a quick turnaround for EVERYONE – this is still the government after all. Though speed has been a happy byproduct of the OT process that is NOT necessarily what it was created to achieve.

Historically, the National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958 was created by NASA to develop a national space program. In its creation, NASA was granted broad authority to enter into and perform such contracts, leases, cooperative agreements, or other transactions as may be necessary to accomplish its mission. Thus, the OTA was born! At present, I believe 13 agencies have OT authority to date.

Those eligible to receive OT awards are non-traditional defense contractors OR traditional defense contractors who have a non-traditional contractor participating to a significant extent regarding the technology or product. Another caveat is that the traditional contractor can provide a financial or in-kind cost share of at least 1/3. But defining a non-traditional is a conversation better had with a consortia program manager who can better identify the exact specifications per each vertical.

OTs are most commonly run through OT Consortia Management firms or CMFs, like our friends at ATI – Advanced Technology International, who serve as the administrative, educational, and community arms of the OT Consortia model. Through them the opportunities flow, and they take on the responsibilities associated with a CMF.

We recently hosted a govmates institute with a panel on OTs and more where we got to talk to both consortia representatives and business leaders who have experience and success in the OT space. It’s very possible to identify, educate, and introduce the OT opportunity to your customer but they often need some of those proof points and a little convincing that this is a viable, legal, option for R&D work – which I’m happy to say, it is!

Additionally, follow-on work awarded after an OT has been awarded can be sole sourced because technically it was already openly competed.

Now to the SBIRs and STTRs. Or as I like to call it, two ingredients of our govcon alphabet soup. Let’s start with the definitions.

SBIR stands for the Small Business Innovation Research Program, and it is a competitive awards-based program used to encourage small businesses to engage in federal R&D with the potential for commercialization. On the other hand, STTR stands for the Small Business Technology Transfer Program and is a partnership between small businesses and nonprofit research institutions in a formal collaboration (specifically for phases 1 and 2). It’s used to bridge the gap between science and commercialization that results in innovative solutions.

To make it simple, STTRs DO NEED to be backed by a lab or academic foundation through which the research is guided and presented. SBIRs do NOT need to have academic/lab backing, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. To be considered a small business in these instances the company must be US-owned, there should be 500 employees or less, and their technology needs to be something unique to the space – or at least interesting enough to warrant further research and development.

Let’s get into the phases of these programs and what they mean for competing businesses.

  • A Phase-1 portion of an SBIR or STTR is typically about 150 thousand to 250 thousand contracts that facilitate concept development and the proof of concept. This is where you get to discover exactly HOW your solution is to work and what it’s going to do – in-depth – to provide a solution to the government’s problem
  • A Phase-2 contract – what we ALL want to achieve; funding is based on the results achieved in Phase I and the scientific and technical merit and commercial potential of the project proposed in Phase II. Typically, only Phase I awardees are eligible for a Phase II award. SBIR/STTR Phase II awards are generally under 1 million dollars for 2 years. This is where you get to develop the actual product or solution for use.
  • Phase 3 – The objective of Phase III, is for the small business to pursue commercialization objectives resulting from the Phase I/II R/R&D activities. This is the “you’ve created it, now go forth and conquer phase”, The SBIR/STTR programs do not fund Phase III. At some Federal agencies, Phase III may involve follow-on non-SBIR/STTR funded R&D or production contracts for products, processes, or services intended for use by the Government.
    Furthermore, certain agencies have SBIR only or BOTH STTR/SBIR opportunities, and they are as follows:

SBIR only would be USDA, NIST, NOAA, Department of Education, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Transportation, and the Environmental Protection Agency.

Those with SBIR AND STTR opportunities would include NASA, The National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy, the DoD, and the Department of Health and Human Services.

To put it simply, OTs, SBIRs, and STTRs are alternate opportunities for small innovative businesses to get off the ground with really interesting technology and solutions that the government DOES need. They just don’t know if or how it exists. We say it all the time around here, change is driven by change makers, and those change makers in govcon are the agile, innovative, small businesses with the drive and vision to make things happen.

In summary, here are a few things to take away:

  • If you’re interested in the SBIR/STTR programs – make someone in your organization the designated SBIR/STTR expert – it does take research and effort to learn, develop, and prepare for these opportunities but once awarded – you have even more potential opportunity for growth.
  • While you don’t HAVE to join a consortium to be eligible for OT opportunities – the community, resources, and management of such opportunities can not be ignored. Choosing a consortium that works best for your specific technology vertical can not be ignored.
  • Finally, do your research! You won’t know what opportunities exist if you follow behind the pack. Go to events, seek discussions with those who have been there, learn where YOUR business fits best, and go after those opportunities.

If you have other questions regarding OTs, SBIRs, STTRs, or otherwise as this was a brief introduction that hopefully helped to get the cogs turning, I’d be happy to have a more in-depth conversation with you about the models or nuances or point you in the direction of someone who has been there for more information.

If you’re NOT already part of a consortium and want more information you can always email the govmates team at, and we’ll point you in the right direction of a human who can answer your technology-vertical-specific consortia questions.

You’ve got interesting technology? You’ve got options.

More Collaboration to Promote Innovation

-As shared by Stephanie Alexander.

George Mason University‘s Center for Government Contracting report kinda makes our point – we need more collaboration within GovCon AND we need the non-traditionals to play an active role.

There is a role for everyone in this ecosystem – from the large integrators who can duct tape the solution together and make it work (my very technical term…given this covers everything from missile systems to the use of nanotechnology to cure cancer) to the small company with an innovative approach to a problem and everyone in between.  OTs provide the vehicle to bring the solutions without the bureaucracy. Consortia management firms (CMFs) herd the cats that are the consortia members and help streamline the process. Consortia members collaborate directly with the government to try to figure out the right solutions…not just parroting back a known technical solution. Hence “innovation” and our constant chatter about small business change makers. Members also collaborate with each other to bring the best technical solution.

It really does work. But the government has to take a chance and has to be just as invested in the process as industry. Critical to all of this working effectively is the communication that happens between members, between government and industry, and from the CMFs to their members and the government.

Read the full report here.