Here at Gallium, we’ve noticed a trend – lots of companies win a Phase I SBIR contract with the Air Force through its open topic, but aren’t clear what they’re now required to do.  The Air Force’s open topic is a different animal than just about anything else out there, so it’s no surprise it throws many founders and government sales teams for a loop.  Let’s clear the air.

First, let’s explain what this contract is.  The Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) contract is designed for several purposes, allowing agencies to use it in myriad ways for myriad objectives.  In this case, the Air Force is arguably using the open topic process to generate new ideas to deliver on its mission in new and innovative ways while opening the front door to a wide variety of businesses.  

In awarding the contract, the Air Force intentionally took a somewhat light approach to its due-diligence on your technology.  As a general rule, an expert with deep technical and operational expertise did not evaluate your technology.  In selecting your proposal for award, the evaluators said “this idea looks promising, we’re willing to fund this team’s time to explore whether it could work.”  

Note, they did not say “go build it.”  They also didn’t say, “there’s money for this,” “there’s a capability gap here,” or even “this is a priority.”  What they did was give you $75,000 and three months to conduct a feasibility study to figure those things out.

So, what do you need to do to conduct a successful feasibility study under the Air Force’s open topic?  

In short, you need to engage a broad set of stakeholders throughout the Air Force in all facets of the mission area you propose to impact to gather feedback on the idea, validate its utility and supportability and ultimately create a detailed prototype development plan, memorialized within a customer memo, that’s supported by an end user and customer.

But that just brings more questions:  What’s an end user?  What’s a customer?  By what process should I gather feedback, validate my idea and document its results?  How do I form an effective project plan and secure the customer memo?  

Look, we get it, there’s a lot of reading and even more nuance to all of this, and it’s incredibly complicated.  As I used to say to my flying students, “Cheer up! It only gets harder from here.”  Whether you’re a founder who seemingly struggles to spell SBIR or an experienced government sales lead balancing a multitude of demands, we’re here for you and our process is proven.  

Schedule a meeting with us and we’ll walk you through exactly how we connect with government partners to help you grow.  Let’s build your roadmap to put you in the best possible position to realize a robust source of non-dilutive funding and recurring revenue.  It’s not that hard, you just need a team behind you.