Small businesses from as far away as Maryland and California gathered at the Albuquerque Convention Center on Dec. 13 to learn about the Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer programs and how their innovations and technologies can be delivered to the Department of Defense.
The DoD Navy SBIR/STTR Innovation Summit brought together 130 individuals seeking to drive innovation through SBIR/STTR programs, and the event was live-streamed to an additional eight satellite locations in Arizona, Hawaii, Kansas, Nebraska, Oregon, Texas, Utah and Washington. The event, which was hosted by the New Mexico Federal and State Technology Partnership program at New Mexico State University’s Arrowhead Center, enjoyed participation of more than 300 individuals via the main event or satellites.
Highlighting the immense opportunity for innovation was a focal point throughout the day, and the SBIR and STTR programs are ideal vehicles to drive innovation throughout New Mexico. These programs allow businesses to move their technologies towards commercialization, contributing to regional economic development and growth.
“New Mexico’s innovators do not lack drive – our universities, laboratories, and small businesses are involved in world class research and development, and have been in the driver’s seat for innovations such as the nicotine patch and quantum dots,” said Scott Maloney, chief innovator at Arrowhead Center. “These successes are made possible by programs such as the SBIR/STTR programs, which provide the opportunity to cultivate those ideas and research into tangible products that can reach the commercial market.”
New Mexico currently ranks 19th in the nation for the number of SBIR and STTR awards. In 2016, 66 awards totaled more than $27 million.
Eleven federal agencies participate in the SBIR and STTR programs, and are required to allocate 3.2 percent of their extramural Research and Development budget towards funding these programs. Program requirements vary between agencies, and while some agencies fund anything innovative, others like the DoD only fund specific needs they’ve identified.
“What does the Navy need,” asked Robert Smith, director of the Navy SBIR and STTR programs, and keynote speaker at the Innovation Summit. “We need it all. I like to say, from boots to boats, dolphins to donuts. You’re going to create what doesn’t exist today. You’re going to provide solutions to problems the Navy didn’t think were solvable.”
Successful engagement with the SBIR and STTR programs was a theme for the days’ panels, which covered how to work with research institutions, successful tips from winners, and how to successfully manage an award. Research institutions emphasized the need to work with small businesses to drive the state of innovation, SBIR winners from across the southwest region highlighted need-to-know information for your first award, and experts weighed in on the necessity of proper accounting and documentation when managing a SBIR project.
The Innovation Summit also provided attendees the opportunity to speak with NAVSEA program managers in private one-on-one sessions – more than 80 sessions were held throughout the day.
“In talking to some people at DoD, I realized that the cybersecurity component of what we are developing could be extremely valuable to address very pressing needs right now,” said attendee Roy Montibon. “I was very interested in this particular conference because of representatives from NAVSEA, and it was a great chance to talk to people from several different Navy departments.”
A post-event reception at Hotel Andaluz provided additional opportunities for networking between attendees, speakers, and the Navy program managers.
“As valuable as the technical information and know-how the sessions provided is, the chance to get to know one another, to talk informally, is just as vital,” said Kathryn Hansen, director of Arrowhead Center. “Events like the Innovation Summit, which bring together people with a shared goal of moving innovation forward, create meaningful opportunities for New Mexico.”
Maloney said, “We in entrepreneurship and economic development like to talk about ‘serendipitous collisions,’ those fortuitous moments in which people with great ideas bump into one another, and the seeds of great things are planted. We are surrounded by people with these sorts of ideas, and I am excited to see what may grow out of this event.”
The NM FAST program is supported by a grant from the U.S. Small Business Administration.
Information from NMSU