Innovation in Energetics

-As shared by Katie Bilek

What makes up the field of energetics? Basically, sh*t that blows up – from explosives and propellants to materials and chemicals, to propulsion and ordnance, to testing and disposal. The field spans multiple functional areas across R&D, engineering, and manufacturing, with applications in air, surface, subsurface, ground, and littoral environments.

A recent trip to Indian Head, MD served as a sobering history lesson and a reminder of the delicate geopolitical pause we have experienced for decades as it pertains to energetics. NSWC Indian Head Division saw significant ramp-up during the Cold War and is now the largest full-spectrum energetics facility in the US, employing nearly 1,900 scientists, experts, and researchers across 2 sites, with significant detachments in Picatinny (New Jersey) and McAlester (Oklahoma).

As we evaluate the adversarial landscape, the war in Ukraine has resurrected the not-so-distant past arms race with Russia. Moreover, China is no longer a near-peer, but rather a peer, as it pertains to work in the energetics field.  Energetics, which used to be a strategic advantage for the US, is now a contested field – one in which we need to refocus our priorities.

I’ve witnessed first-hand leaders and innovators in this community who are willing to create change – to prototype, to experiment, to research, and to find ways to do things differently. These are leaders who understand the sense of urgency to spur our creative processes. NSWC IHD is blessed with a robust ecosystem of industry, academia, and non-profit organizations with deep knowledge and expertise in this field. In addition, leadership is equipped with procurement tools including OTA, CRADAs, and PIAs that enable them to engage with innovators in a way that fosters collaboration, protects IP rights, and delivers solutions in a rapid manner.

As we revive our efforts in the energetics field, all eyes are on NSWC Indian Head to lead us in regaining that strategic advantage.

5 Tips for Teaming Effectively 

We often hear from our #govmatesNation that it’s tough to be all things to all customers, especially in the name of following through on a contract. Luckily, we have good news. The answer to many of your challenges may be under the umbrella of teaming. It’s incredibly valuable to know what you do and do it really well when it comes to bidding, winning, and executing on government contracts. It’s even better to do it with a stellar team.

As such, we’d like to give you our five tips for teaming effectively. When we say teaming effectively, we’re talking about going beyond the coffee chats and NDAs. We’re going to get into the weeds here with what makes a good teammate and how not every business friend is a good partner.  

Knowing Your Swim Lane 

If you have ever been to a govmates Institute (if not, what are you waiting for?) you’ve heard us speak about the importance of knowing what you do and doing it well. You need to identify your swim lane. What are your core capabilities, not the things that you throw on to win a proposal and figure out the specifics later? What was your company built on that is the motherhood and apple pie of your business? Once you can identify and speak on these capabilities, you’ll need to find ways to stay within your swim late. Did you read that? Stay in your lane (for the most part). Pay special attention to the bright and shiny opportunities that come down the pipeline. They may look good on the outset but once you get into the specifics, the work they’re asking you to complete, and how much that may cost you in time, team members, and more – it might lose its luster.  

Opportunity Pipeline 

We know, trust me we know, having a “5-year plan” for business, especially during this type of ecosystem seems like a lifetime. BUT, there’s no shortage of information regarding opportunities that may make themselves known in the near future. Using tools such as GovWin or otherwise may help you to better plan and prepare for opportunities that come down the pike. Creating teams, or at least getting an NDA in place ahead of these opportunities may help when it comes time for your red and pink teams to do their due diligence. Having one eye to the grind and one in the sky of opportunity is key for building, sustaining, and succeeding at business in this space. Your pipeline should be a growing and breathing space that is constantly churning and spitting things out to forget or build up to compete.  


“Communication is a two-way street.” We’ve all heard that but putting it into practice is another ball of wax altogether. From a teaming perspective, having the coffee dates, the lunches, and the conversations early on are all well and dandy, but a strong line of communication goes well beyond that. You’ll need to periodically check in with your partners, your contacts, your frenemies, to ensure that when something big does drop in your space, you’re not trying to rekindle a business relationship while trying to gather data for a proposal. Stay in touch. Keep one another updated on your bandwidth and opportunities. Promote each other’s content, webinars, and otherwise. Be the type of partner or frenemy you’d want in the space.  

Past Performance 

The importance of past performance within the scope of proposals has grown, especially since the shift away from the lowest price technically acceptable. While not always required, it is a good practice for agencies to consider past performance to help better prepare companies to meet requirements and provide adequate solutions. We are also noticing that on the past few opportunities it has been necessary for teaming partners to have worked together, in a more significant way than previously expected. Another mark in the column for working together in a documented way, as much as possible.  


Documenting teaming agreements, NDAs, past performance and so on is the govcon equivalent of “photos or it didn’t happen.” In order to show adequate proof of anything in this business, you need to have a paper trail – or at least an encrypted e-file. So, document, document, document; all of the work you’re doing with partners, potential teammates, and those in the space that may be able to provide evidence to back up your experience. Once you have it, keep it in a singular place that you’ll be able to access effectively during proposal season, or when you’re working to solidify relationships using past experience in the space.  

Overall, effective teaming comes down to knowing your business and what you do well and filling the spaces with companies who compliment and add to your suite of capabilities. The best teams are those who work well together in complementary spaces but know how to give an effective go or no-go to opportunities. Our last piece of advice is, don’t wait. Do not drag your feet when it comes to creating and maintaining relationships with potential teaming partners. The worst that can happen is you find an ally in the industry, the best is dream team status.  

Go forth, and partner.  

Tech Talks | Trenton Systems


In this episode of govmates Next Gen, Meg sits down with Yazz from Trenton Systems for a dynamic discussion on how the company is providing innovative solutions to support mission-critical endeavors.



Still reeling from CIO-SP4? Trying to make sense of the latest draft RFP? Prepping for the alleged release on December 21? Ready to ruin your Christmas vacation? Come listen to our experts debate strategy, teaming arrangements, racking up points on the scorecard and legal lessons learned from CIO-SP4. Our goal is to provide an engaging, candid discussion that will help your company make the right decisions to pursue or not and what teaming strategies you should employ.

Leveraging OTAs as a Tool for Growth

On October 21, 2021 the govmates team hosted a virtual Institute to discuss Leveraging OTAs as a Tool for Growth. Our speakers included Bob Tuohy, Retired COO, Advanced Technology International (ATI), Jason Havel, VP, Alluvionic Inc and Jim Ghiloni, Director, Wolf Den Associates moderated by govmates Co-Founder Stephanie Alexander.

The panel provided several comments and important takeaways for businesses looking to utilize OTAs in their capture strategy.

What is the Biggest Mistake Small Businesses Make When Pursuing OTAs?

One of the biggest mistakes our panelists have seen is stretching themselves too thin and joining too many consortia whose technology areas may not be the best fit, instead of focusing on the 2 or 3 that best align with the company’s capabilities. In this case, more does not equal better. Invest your time and resources in consortia that actually compete for opportunities that align with your company’s skillset.

How can a company best utilize OTAs?

An important note made to kick off the discussion was that OTA’s are not magic bullets or get-out-of-jail-free schemes to circle around the government bureaucracy(though wouldn’t that be nice!). Instead, the panel suggested bringing the OTA opportunity to your customer and educating them about the option and how it will be beneficial to their mission. In essence, OTA’s are tools, and helpful ones at that. They provide for increased free and open collaboration, the opportunity to discuss the art of possible and understand how to best provide solutions to the real problems that need solving.

In a good model, you have collaboration events amongst the members.   Within OTA consortia, you’re incentivized to team. These collaborations build teams that may not have been built before, and open doors to new partners they you may not have met under conventional (FAR-based) circumstances.

How Do You Educate Your Government Customer About the Use of OTA Vehicles?

While OTAs might be an older vehicle, they may be very new to your customer. In that circumstance, don’t be alarmed if they determine they need to consult with others within their organization to determine if they want to move forward.

In short, start with the capability you’re selling. What solution or innovative capability do you have and how can you adequately convey the need for your solution, to your customer? Identify and present examples of other government customers who have used OTAs and the success they achieved. From there, get cozy with the program managers, contracting shop, and your points of contact. Establish a good relationship early on and continue to feed it as you move through the process.


Where is the Trend of OTA Use headed?

Wolf Den Associated identified significant growth from 2015 to present, in fact, a 92% growth.  The majority of the spend is still within DoD which resulted in about $16 billion in FY2020, up from less than $1 billion 5 years ago.  The vast majority of the spend is for R&D, while there is some spend in services and products (albeit minimal). There was a thought at one point about using OTAs to get to products but that’s not come to fruition yet. As they’re primarily being used for R&D a lot of the spend is flowing through consortia.


To take this further within OTA consortia, prototypes are moving into production which will be a key metric to measure.  The industry will see increased activity in that space especially when non-traditionals have reached the point where they can prime those production contracts.


Joining a Consortia

Sometimes it’s tough for small businesses to know which consortia to join.  It’s helpful if you look at the last batch of RFPs that went thru a consortium to determine if it’s a good fit for you. If those RFPs align with your trajectory, then it’s worth giving thought to joining.  Additionally, If you see your competitors in the consortia, then that could mean (depending on your school of thought) it might be an opportunity for you as well.


We want to give a big thank you to our panelists and attendees for providing their thoughts on this discussion. To see the replay in full, please visit:

govmates Partners with ATI to Support Non-Traditionals

Oct. 5, 2021 (SUMMERVILLE, S.C.)Advanced Technology International (ATI) is proud to launch the Innovation Resource Hub, the first-ever ecosystem of resources dedicated to helping non-traditional defense contractors succeed in federal R&D. ATI has partnered with govmates, the premier teaming partner platform for government contractors, to create the offering for all ATI-managed consortia.

The Innovation Resource Hub includes access to the govmates matchmaking platform, as well as a plethora of resources and support to common challenges for non-traditionals and small businesses, such as: access to capital, cyber and supply chain security, infrastructure support, legal and intellectual property rights, human capital, mergers and acquisitions support, and more.

With 23 active collaborations spanning various technology areas, ATI is adding to its suite of services offered to more than 3,700 collective consortia members.

“ATI is excited to join forces with govmates in launching the Innovation Resource Hub. The platform will offer a suite of services focused on supporting non-traditional contractors to better serve their federal Government clients,” said Chris Van Metre, President and CEO of ATI. “The ATI and govmates strategic partnership will enhance collaboration opportunities and foster teaming among consortia members and other companies seeking to expand their business into the government contracting market.”

The govmates matchmaking platform facilitates formulaic and methodical teaming introductions in support of federal contracts. With more than 29,000 matches and 5,600 teaming and procurement introductions across a membership of 4,500 non-traditionals, the govmates platform equips ATI consortia members with more capabilities to win government projects through greater visibility among government, industry, and academia.

“govmates chose to partner with ATI, because ATI shares our core values of ethics and collaboration,” said Katie Bilek, Co-Founder and Partner of govmates. “Together, we’re accelerating impact and supporting the continued evolution of innovation in support of the U.S. government.”

The partnership demonstrates ATI’s deep commitment to supporting the innovation community to help solve our nation’s greatest technological challenges. Both ATI and govmates are united in bringing forth the best and brightest technology providers of all backgrounds to deliver innovation that saves lives, enables the warfighter, and diversifies the industrial base. By leveraging the resources of ATI – the pioneer in R&D collaboration management – with the technology and agility of govmates, the federal government will receive more national security solutions to meet its mission-focused needs.


View the PR Newswire Here.




ATI, a public-service nonprofit based in Summerville, S.C., builds and manages collaborations that conduct research and development of new technologies to solve our nation’s most pressing challenges. Fueled by a community of experts from industry, academia, and government, ATI accelerates impact by using the power of collaboration to help the federal government quickly acquire novel technologies. | LinkedIn | Twitter | collaborATIon app

Recap: Back to School | Teaming with Academic Organizations and Research Institutions

On September 16, 2021, govmates hosted a virtual panel event to discuss teaming with academic organizations and research institutions through the Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) program. Our panelists included Sidney Chocron, R&D Manager at the Southwest Research Institute, Matt Barsotti, Principal at Protection Engineering Consultants, David Stevens, Principal Engineer at Protection Engineering Consultants, and Ted Reutzel, Director of Center for Innovative Materials Processing at The Applied Research Laboratory at Penn State University. Mr. Chocron and Mr. Reutzel offered their views as members of large research institutions with STTR experience, while Mr. Barsotti and Mr. Stevens provided the perspective of a small business that has successfully completed STTR awards.

Why choose to pursue an STTR?

The STTR program is different from other federal opportunities in that the end customer is not looking for a product or service, rather a problem to be solved. STTRs are research-heavy and have aggressive timelines. Small businesses may choose to pursue an STTR because it allows the company to develop new skills and capabilities.

The program offers an avenue for both the small business and the research institution to explore a niche R&D priority. A research institution can get substantial funding if a project moves from Phase I to Phase II. Academic institutions specifically are excited about the opportunity to involve graduate students and further their research goals.

How do I find a teaming partner?

It typically falls on the small business to find a teaming partner. The right teaming partner may be an institution with access to specialty equipment, or a university with plenty of graduate students to spare for the project.  The small business must consider their own capability gaps and requirements before reaching out to prospective partners.

As our panelists emphasized, it is so important for the small business to go to the research institution with a clear plan and an open mind. The small business is usually the lead on the project; they must come to the table with the motivation and drive to win while still allowing their team members to be full and equal partners.

How does the teaming partnership work?

Finding the right partner is not easy. Our small business panelists emphasized that it is important to find a partner willing to work on your timeline. STTRs often move fast, sometimes requiring work to start before an agreement is official. Universities and other research institutions are also allowed to work on multiple Phase I proposals at once. There may be multiple companies vying for the attention of a single research institution; that institution can work with as many or as few as feels appropriate.

What other advice do you have for companies interested in pursuing an STTR?

  1. If possible, talk to the STTR technical point of contact (TPOC) about the solicitation. Find out what the end customer wants and why they chose to go through the STTR program. This will help focus and refine the research priorities.
  2. Intellectual property agreement negotiations can take a long time, especially when dealing with a university. Start working on an IP agreement as soon as possible to ensure everything is in place by the STTR due date.
  3. Ensure that all parties are happy with the workshare agreement. Teams should have complementary skillsets and clearly defined tasks with an agreed-upon timeline. Partnerships that work well together have a better chance of winning a Phase II award!

Pursuing an STTR and need a teaming partner?  Contact us at today!

Author: Hannah Altman, Program Analyst

What is an OTA

What is an OTA?

Stephanie Alexander and Katie Bilek explain what an Other Transaction Authority (OTA) is and how it helps government agencies find and attract innovative contractors.