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  • Writer's pictureRon Ben Tsvi

AFWERX – Open Call For Mature Tech


Phase I - $50k for 3 months

Phase II - $1,500,000 for 27 months

Phase III – Commercialization assistance and potential federal contract. The AF expects many programs to jump directly from Phase I to Phase III

This topic is specifically aimed at later stage development rather than earlier stage basic science and research.

In the words of the AirForce:

The objective of this topic is to explore Innovative Defense-Related Dual-Purpose Technologies that may not be covered by any other specific SBIR topic and thus to explore options for solutions that may fall outside the Air Force’s current fields of focus but that may be useful to the US Air Force. An additional objective of this topic is to grow the industrial base of the US Air Force. This topic will reach companies that can complete a feasibility study and prototype validated concepts in accelerated Phase I and II schedules.

DESCRIPTION: The Air Force is a large and complex organizations that consists of many functions that have similar counterparts in the commercial sector. We are interested in exploring innovative technology domains that have demonstrated clear commercial value in the non-defense sector (i.e., through existing products/solutions) in order to see if they have similar Air Force applications (i.e. Dual-Purpose Technologies/Solutions). We recognize that it is impossible to cover every technological area with the SBIR topics, thus this topic is intended to be a call for open ideas and technologies that cover topics that may not be currently listed (i.e. the unknown-unknown). It is important that any potential solutions have a high probability of keeping pace with the technological change and thus should be closely tied to commercial technologies and solutions that will help support the development of the solution. This topic is meant for innovative non-defense commercial solutions to be adapted in innovative ways to meet DoD stakeholders’ needs in a short timeframe and at a low cost. Solutions for this topic should be focused on the three areas listed below and should try to meet as many of these as possible.

1. Technical feasibility – There should be minimal technical risk to the overall solution. The best solutions will have demonstrated technical feasibility by showing the solution being used broadly by other customers, especially in the non-defense space. If the solution has not demonstrated technical feasibility in the non-defense space, the offeror(s) may provide alternative evidence to indicate technical feasibility such as initial lab tests, use of the product with defense customers and other forms of evidence.

2. Financial Sustainability – The offeror(s) should demonstrate financial sustainability of the solution and the offeror(s). The best solutions will demonstrate this by sales of the solution to non-defense clients and other sources of private investment. If the solution has not demonstrated financial sustainability by non-defense sales or private investment, the offeror(s) may provide other evidence of financial sustainability such as other governmental aid, sales to defense customers, and other forms of evidence that help explain the financial sustainability.

3. Defense Need – The offeror(s) should demonstrate that they have an understanding of the fit between their solution and defense stakeholders. The offeror(s) may provide an indication of a defense ‘need’ by evidence of preliminary discussions with USAF stakeholders, a clear description (including contact name, rank, unit and contact information) of a specific, potential USAF stakeholder that may need to use the solution or other forms of evidence to help explain a clear defense need. In summary - proposals for this topic should demonstrate a high probability to quickly find product-market fit between an Air Force end user and the proposed solution through adaptation of a non-defense commercial solution. This can be done through a proposal with a mature non-defense technical solution and a starting point to find an Air Force customer. BROAD FOCUS AREAS AND SPECIFIC USER NEEDS FOR 19.2 OPEN TOPIC Though the topic is truly ‘Open’ (agnostic of industry, technology, and problem area), to facilitate streamlined customer discovery for companies in Phase I, we have identified certain problem areas for which potential Air Force Customers and/or funding have already been identified. These areas, which we break out into broad ‘Focus Areas’ and specific ‘User Needs’, are described below. Focus Areas – for a broad ‘Focus Area’ to be included in this topic (the list of Focus Areas can be viewed at, we required that it either have a significant number of Air Force customers seeking solutions in that area OR a specific Air Force Customer that has set aside funding to address that area by way of SBIR fund-matching. Thus, if your solution can help address one of these Focus Areas, there is likely to be a good number of Air Force End-Users and customers that you can interact with in your phase I feasibility study and an increased likelihood for matching funding. User Needs – for a specific ‘User Need’ to be included in this topic (the list of User Needs can be viewed at, we required that an Air Force end-user or customer clearly articulate a specific problem affecting their mission for which they are actively seeking solutions from SBIR companies. Thus, if your solution can help address one of these User Needs, then there is *at least* one Air Force end-user that you can readily interact with in your phase I feasibility study. If you believe your solution can help address one of the ‘Focus Areas or ‘User Needs’, please note this on the first slide of your application slide deck AND include the Focus Area ID # or User Need ID # in your ‘Keywords’ in the online SBIR application (Example: FA-001, or UN-1034). The alignment between a proposal and a ‘Focus Area’ or ‘User Need’ can strengthen an application. Note that this does not change the requirement to demonstrate the defense need as listed above, but may complement it. This also does not preclude companies who are looking to solve other problems that are not listed in the ‘Focus Areas’ or ‘User Needs’ to submit to this topic; it is simply intended to give indications of areas of special focus for the Air Force at this particular point in time.

PHASE I: Validate the product-market fit between the proposed solution and a potential USAF stakeholder and define a clear and immediately actionable plan for running a trial with the proposed solution and the proposed AF customer. This feasibility study should directly address:

1. Clearly identify who the prime potential AF end user(s) and AF transition customer (the user and customer will likely be two different people) and articulate how they would use your solution(s) (i.e., the one who is most likely to an early adopter, first user, and initial transition partner).

2. Deeply explore the problem or benefit area(s) which are to be addressed by the solution(s) - specifically focusing on how this solution will impact the end user of the solution.

3. Define clear objectives and measurable key results for a potential trail of the proposed solution with the identified Air Force end user(s).

4. Clearly identify any additional specific stakeholders beyond the end user(s) who will be critical to the success of any potential trial. This includes, but is not limited to, program offices, contracting offices, finance offices, information security offices and environmental protection offices.

5. Describe how the solution differs from the non-defense commercial offering to solve the Air Force need - (i.e. how has it been modified)

6. Describe the cost and feasibility of integration with current mission-specific products.

7. Describe if and how the demonstration can be used by other DoD or governmental customers The funds obligated on the resulting Phase I SBIR contracts are to be used for the sole purpose of conducting a thorough feasibility study using scientific experiments, laboratory studies, commercial research and interviews. Prototypes may be developed with SBIR funds during Phase I studies to better address the risks and potential payoffs in innovative technologies.

PHASE II: Develop, install, integrate and demonstrate a prototype system determined to be the most feasible solution during the Phase I feasibility study. This demonstration should focus specifically on: 1. Evaluating the proposed solution against the objectives and measurable key results as defined in the phase I feasibility study. 2. Describing in detail how the solution differs from the non-defense commercial offering to solve the Air Force need and how it can be scaled to be adopted widely (i.e. how can it be modified for scale) 3. A clear transition path for the proposed solution that takes into account input from all affected stakeholders including but not limited to: end users, engineering, sustainment, contracting, finance, legal, and cyber security. 4. Specific details about how the solution can integrate with other current and potential future solutions. 5. How the solution can be sustainable (i.e. supportability) 6. Clearly identify other specific DoD or governmental customers who want to use the solution.

PHASE III: PHASE III DUAL USE APPLICATIONS: This is the main goal of this topic, we intend for many of the solutions to go straight from Phase I to Phase III as soon as the product-market fit has been verified. The contractor will transition the adapted non-defense commercial solution to provide expanded mission capability to a broad range of potential government and civilian users and alternate mission applications.


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