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  • Writer's pictureRon Ben Tsvi

4 Ways the Govt. is Making Funding Fast

The U.S. Federal Government is by far America's biggest investor in R&D projects in both the private and public sectors. And it's not even close. The agencies invest a combined $170B+ ANNUALLY without taking back any equity or making a claim to the IP.

While the government is a generous investor, the grant process is slower than VCs. Sensitive to this, the agencies are searching for ways to make the grants process faster. Let's take a look at 4 agency run programs for fast funding.

1) Air Force "Fast" Funding Programs

AFWERX, Pitch day Event, NSIN Special Topics

When it comes to making grants easy and fast, the Air Force wins the cake. The AF has a number of quick funding programs for small businesses.

A) AFWERX Challenges:

  • Private institution partnered with the Airforce, creating challenges where companies can receive up to $2M+ of prototype & experimentation funding.

  • The Air Force Research Labs (AFRL) in partnership with AFWERX are launching the Supply Chain and Provenance Challenge, looking for your innovative solutions!

  • Past projects have included both hardware, as well as software tech.

  • Past AFWERX Challenges:

  1. Mixed Reality Platform Challenge: Seeking solutions and experts to develop a next-gen platform for training and operation

  2. USAF New Helmet System Open Challenge: Improving our Airmen's helmets with tomorrow's technology

B) Pitch Day Event:

"Pitch Days are new fast tracks for startups to work with the Air Force. Modeled after commercial investment pitch competitions, our goal is to award $40 million to startups using one-day, one-page contracts...." -Dr. Will Roper, Assistant Sec. of the AF for Acquisition, Tech & Logistics


Pitch Day is open to all ideas furthering national security in air, space and cyberspace.

  • Awards up to $158K given on the same day as selection.

  • Special focus on three areas:

  1. Command, Control, Communications, Intelligence and Network

  2. U.S. Air Force Special Warfare Technologies (Battlefield Air Operations Family of Systems Technologies)

  3. Digital Technologies

C) NSIN (National Security Innovation Network) Special Topics:

NSIN offers a series of challenges and hackathons. In addition their special topics is a new and more efficient approach to SBIR funding.

  • Special Topics have shortened technical durations, reduced reporting requirements, and varying award amounts compared to normal SBIR Topics.

  • A Phase I award will be completed over 3 months with up to $75K and rapidly converts to a Phase II consisting of a maximum period of 15 months and $750K in funding.

D) AFWERX SBIR Open Topic:

Open Call for Innovative Defense-Related Dual-Purpose Technologies/Solutions with a Clear Air Force Stakeholder Need

  • Phase I award will be completed over 3 months with a maximum award of $50K

  • Phase II may be awarded for a maximum period of 27 months and $1,500,000

  • Direct2Phase2: $750,000

2) Silicon Valley Innovation Program (DHS)

  • As the program's name suggests, the SVIP is based out of Silicon Valley and looks to accelerate technology transition-to-market. The program is open to U.S. and International companies and gives 4 phases of funding each ranging from $50,000-$200,000 and lasting for a period of 3-6 months each phase.

  • DHS is currently interested in a range of technologies including blockchain and sensors for object recognition. Past projects have funded cyber, AI, and more.

3) Rapid Innovation Fund (RIF)

  • The Dept. of Defense offers a less classic "fast" funding initiative. The "rapid" component is for the rapid procurement of the tech. Beyond a big first client (-ahem- the govt!), the program offers up to $3 million in funding for mature and innovative technologies looking to jump over the commercialization valley of death.

  • There are 266 topics spanning nearly every tech vertical and the average size of funding is $2.1 million per project.

  • What is rapid about the program is not the R&D funding, but rather the rapid contract you receive when you complete development!

4) DIUX - Defense Innovation Unit

  • The DIUX provide non-dilutive capital in the form of pilot contracts for commercial innovation that solves Dept. of Defense (DoD) problems. And they do so quickly, usually in under 90 days.

  • Pilot contracts can include hardware, software, or unique services. More importantly, after a successful pilot, the company involved and any DoD entity can easily enter into follow-on contracts, just as fast.

To learn more or set up a call, email:

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