The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, has published a list of 10 innovation target areas it hopes to use small business contracts to address in the coming year, and announced the establishment of a small business incubator.
In Broad Agency Announcement, or BAA, earlier this month, the agency says it will use Small Business Innovation Research, or SBIR, and Small Business Technology Transfer, or STTR, programs to advertise “funding opportunities on a ‘just-in-time’ basis.”
The incubator, known as the DARPA Accelerator Program, aims to mentor small businesses on how to traverse the so-called “valley of death” between lab-feasible technology and a going commercial concern.
Companies selected for the accelerator program “will have access to a DARPA commercialization advisor, mentors from industry, as well as connections to DARPA’s extensive network of investors,” the BAA said. They will also get additional funding up to $250,000, “to bring an entrepreneur-in-residence onto their team and execute a series of commercial development milestones.”
The aims of the new program include “stimulating technological innovation, strengthening the role of small business in meeting DoD research and development needs, fostering and encouraging participation by minority and disadvantaged persons in technological innovation, and increasing the commercial application of DoD-supported research or research and development results,” the agency said.
The programs are divided into two phases, with vendors first demonstrating the feasibility of their idea before actually building a product in phase two. Those that can already show their proposal is realistic are eligible to advance directly into the second phase of the program.
The ten focus areas are:
- “Artificial Intelligence: Improve algorithms, address data quality, optimize human machine coordination and disrupt adversaries’ efforts.
- Autonomy: Address teaming of autonomous systems; machine perception, reasoning and intelligence; human and autonomy systems trust and interaction.
- Communications: Addressing high-performance, low power embedded processing and developing algorithms for self-configuring, self-healing and resource allocation.
- Cyber: Address behavioral issues, develop self-securing networks and develop methodologies to assess cyber effects and consequences.
- Directed Energy: Address power scaling, jitter reduction, laser size and weight, adaptive optics, beam propagation and target tracking.
- Hypersonics: Address high temperature materials, hypersonic vehicle manufacturing, air breathing propulsion and hypersonic guidance and control systems.
- Microelectronics: Develop economically competitive domestic manufacturing capabilities, improve radiation hardening and develop radio frequency (RF) technologies for specialty applications with nuclear, space and electronic warfare capabilities.
- Quantum Sciences: Address quantum clocks and sensors, quantum communications technologies and develop enabling technologies for quantum computing in the areas of cryogenics and photon detection.
- Space: Developing low earth orbit nano-satellites for missile warning, intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, navigation and communications.
- Nuclear Modernization: Modernization of the nuclear triad; bombers, intercontinental ballistic missiles, and ballistic missile submarines, as well as the supporting infrastructure, including the national laboratories and the nuclear command, control, and communications (NC3) networks.”