area where Welby believed that small business engaged very well with the agency. He mentioned that these efforts were typically executed through BAAs, which allowed a small business to engage with the agency at a minimal cost in terms of resources. Typically, DARPA asks potential collaborators to submit a white paper rather than a more formal proposal. This allows the business to generate a two- or three-page concept paper that program managers can read quickly. The BAA process, in contrast to the formal RFP, allows significant interaction between the government sponsor and the respondents to the announcements.
For example, management can sit down in a conference room around a white board with these small companies and flesh out the concept, identify what aspects of it are worth pursuing, and identify the portion of the concept that can be executed by a small business. Many of DARPA’s near-term, rapid-reaction papers on technological issues emerge from interactions with small business. They come from individuals who come in with one-page ideas, saying “I know how to do something that you don't yet know how to do."
Walker’s final question was related to government prizes—specifically, the recent DARPA Grand Challenge. He asked Welby how the agency and how he, Welby, would characterize responses to such prizes. Do the prizes encourage small businesses or large? Do they encourage academia? Does DARPA see them as encouraging new ideas, even ideas that may prove not to be contenders in a challenge opportunity? Do the prizes encourage organizations, businesses, or academic interests to engage with DARPA and DARPA projects in other venues and other ways? Welby thought that the Grand Challenge was one of the more exciting things he had been involved with in the last year. He went on to say that when DARPA held a kick-off for the Grand Challenge at the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles on February 22, 2003, it thought the event would be attended by a few interested participants. DARPA also thought that the agency would lay out a set of rules, potential participants would return home to work on the ideas, and everyone would convene in the desert 6 months later. When over a thousand people showed up, DARPA realized that the challenge would involve many more teams and many more participants than it had initially expected. There was great enthusiasm on the part of people who would normally never think about responding to a DOD activity, including high school students, university students, small businesses, and individuals operating out of their garages. Welby described one member of a team from upstate New York who competed on a television game show, won prize money, and invested it in building an autonomous robotic ground vehicle. He ran out of money halfway through the project and went back on the game show to win additional money. At the Grand Challenge main event, there were several thousand spectators out in the Mojave desert watching the launch of the vehicles and several thousand more people back in Las Vegas waiting for the vehicles to come in. In every way, the Grand Challenge overwhelmed expectations.
Welby commented that the Grand Challenge had introduced a number of teams to DARPA and its mission and had succeeded in creating a new dynamic for interaction with DARPA. What was important, Welby said, was that teams had come together. Almost every vehicle involved collaboration among universities, among small businesses, or among individuals. During the Grand Challenge, DARPA sponsored meetings across the country for robotic vehicle enthusiasts and helped them team, obtain