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Air Force Pitch Days showing signs of early success, 10 more scheduled in 2019

August 08, 2019
By: Colin Edwards

In response to its shrinking industrial base and having identified a gap in its ability to rapidly acquire and deploy innovative technologies, the U.S. Air Force (USAF) recently made some changes to its SBIR/STTR program. The new Pitch Days have already met with success and 10 more Pitch Days have been scheduled in 2019. The USAF expects to make its roughly $660 million of annual SBIR/STTR funding more easily available to a greater number of startup companies, thereby greatly expanding its industrial base, encouraging innovation and small business generation, and filling the innovation void left by the large prime contractors.

In March, USAF kicked off its inaugural Pitch Day event in New York City in which 51 startup companies were awarded on-the-spot contracts totaling $8.75 million. Modeled after commercial investment pitch competitions, the USAF invited 59 companies from an application pool of 417 to pitch their proposals. Companies are given 10 minutes to present and five minutes to answer questions, with investment decisions being made immediately. Previously, the record for contract awards of this type clocked in at approximately 90 days. That record now stands at three minutes.

In July, the USAF followed up with a second Pitch Day in Burlington, Massachusetts. Although the event was much smaller than the first and focused exclusively on Unmanned Aerial Systems technologies, all 13 companies invited to participate received awards totaling $975,000 in under two and a half hours. Registration was not open for this event. Rather, only companies which had already submitted SBIR/STTR applications were invited to participate.

Similarly, the next Pitch Day will focus exclusively on space technologies and invite participants from among existing SBIR/STTR applicants. Participants in the Space Pitch Day, scheduled for the first week of November in San Francisco, will be vying for a piece of approximately $40 million in planned awards.

USAF officials said that despite this initial success, the difficulty moving forward will be in scaling the program.

If you are interested in learning more about the SBIR/STTR application process, SSTI’s Annual Conference will have representatives from the Small Business Administration and the National Science Foundation present throughout the conference, with special sessions designed to take a deeper look at the new proposal pitch process. Explore the full conference agenda, here.

sbir, sttr, dept of defense