WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio – The Air Force Research Laboratory and the Wright Brothers Institute hosted the first Air Force Technology Executive Officer Pitch Day Nov. 15 at the Steam Plant and the Wright Brothers Institute in Dayton.
Powered by the Air Force Small Business Innovation Research/Small Business Technology Transfer (SBIR/STTR) program to address unforeseen technology barriers, the event welcomed pre-selected Phase II SBIR/STTR companies – several with Dayton operating locations, to participate and pitch at the event. Matching funds from investors concerned about current technological issues and focused on the betterment of warfighters were available.
“AF TEO Pitch Day was a monumental event that showcased the partnerships of all the stakeholders focused on the betterment of our warfighters,” said Anissa Lumpkin, AFRL Center Lead for the AF SBIR/STTR program. “Fourteen small businesses pitched their technology transition plans to AF leaders and state of the art technology experts, 12 guest speakers highlighted strategies of working with the Air Force; four sponsorships supported the efforts, and over 300 Air Force subject matter experts, industry and academia partners, and small businesses attended and networked throughout the event. Events like this are the force of the future,” she said.
“We’ve done a marvelous job of developing disruptive technology over the years. We have always been at the forefront of doing that. The challenge that we have now is to not only develop disruptive technology, but to develop technology disruptively,” said David Shahady, Director, AF SBIR/STTR.
According to Shahady, a key question the SBIR/STTR program needed to answer was, “How can we change the way we do business in such a way that we can respond faster than our adversaries, so that we can capitalize on the momentum that’s going on in commercial industry?” “Over the last year, we’ve put almost $4 billion of outside money onto Air Force SBIR and STTR programs. That is a huge, monumental success over what we have seen in the past.”
About 500 projects a year had been awarded SBIR Phase I contracts in the past, Shahady said. “Last year, SBIR awarded nearly 1,700 Phase I contracts. Previously, 150-200 Phase II contracts were awarded yearly. Last year we awarded almost 500 Phase II contracts. The numbers are obviously climbing – what this says is that this program is indeed significant to the technology base, to the industry base, and it’s available.”
Shahady told the businesses in attendance, “Inventors make stuff. Innovators make history. We all know who Thomas Edison was. Actually, Thomas Edison was not the inventor of the light bulb; instead, Sir Joseph Swan was the true inventor of the lightbulb. However, everyone knows Thomas Edison’s name because he was the person to put the lightbulb in every house in America – and that is what we are asking of all of you, not to just be an inventor, but to put your technology into the hands of the warfighter. We are proud of you, and the entire Air Force enterprise.”
The total awards presented at the AF TEO Pitch Day was $15,612,425. Of that, $13,324,425 was spent on 12 SBIR awards and $2,288,000 was awarded on two STTR awards. All of the awardees are active Phase II recipients and were requesting a “Beyond Phase II” award, or an “Enhancement,” both of which are known as an investment request.
Srujal Sheth, President and CEO, and Sunit Sheth, Chief Technology Officer, of Vana Solutions, a woman-owned small business from Beavercreek, Ohio , discussed the success their company has experienced working with the AF SBIR/STTR program during a small business showcase presentation at the beginning of the event.
“We were able to go from Phase 1 to Phase III in just nine months,” said Sunit Sheth. “The SBIR program and AFWERX really create this aura of partnership. It is not about a contractor-government relationship – it’s becoming more of a partnership. I want to thank you because it has been an amazing journey.”
“The Air Force is back on the map, we’re here to stay, and ready to compete! I’m waiting for the day that we’re listed in the top 100 most innovative organizations in the United States of America – we’re right on the brink!” Shahady said.