motivation for teaming with small businesses is the advantage it offers when pursuing high-risk technology.
Branscome asked a related question about the involvement of universities in DARPA programs. Are there dedicated solicitations focused solely on universities, or does the agency plan solicitations that seek partnerships between industry and universities? Welby responded that DARPA did both. In the area of basic research, efforts are made to involve as many universities as possible. As with small business, the activities are scaled to a level appropriate for university participation. He mentioned that many DARPA programs consisted of teams of small participating universities. However, for the agency’s larger efforts and prototype programs, particular challenges exist for universities, including challenges associated with ITAR requirements, restricted rights, and the requirement to maintain academic and intellectual freedom. These issues need to be addressed, but in the basic research area, the DOD reaches out to universities in its MURI efforts. Also, the STTR mechanism mentioned earlier applies exclusively to collaboration between small businesses and universities. The STTR mechanism was found to be very effective for high-risk technologies.
Branscome again asked Welby if DARPA had invited DOD government laboratories to compete against industry and universities by participating in solicitations and if DARPA’s acquisition activity was segregated so as to avoid competition between government and industry. Welby stated that DARPA tried to avoid setting up competitive relationships between contractors and government researchers. Statutory limitations are imposed on government laboratory participation in activities deemed competitive. Government laboratories and federally funded institutions have unique mechanisms by which to engage DARPA; these are independent of competitive efforts and tend to be more effective. Such mechanisms tend to be informal—they might, for example, entail a meeting of counterparts within government to discuss the possibility of collaborative programs without the trouble of competitive solicitations. DARPA also involves DOD laboratories in establishing joint programs. Welby believed that this was a better model for government agencies than a competitive model.
Dava Newman asked Joe if Northrop Grumman, given the excitement surrounding the J-UCAS program and the opportunities if offered, had been able to attract stellar new hires to work on it. She also asked him for some details on the workforce for the project. Joe replied that new development programs attracted engineers who wanted to design and to work on a new project. The award of J-UCAS to Northrop Grumman did require an increase in staffing. It was a challenge for the corporation to staff not only the J-UCAS program but also other programs that competed for engineering resources. He said that the program was able to attract a lot of resources from outside and expected that the corporation itself would have to hire 300 more engineers. Subcontractors and suppliers to the program will also most likely require additional staff.
An attendee commented that the mechanisms for cooperation described by Welby and Joe sounded like a standard customer-contractor relationship. He also referred to Joe’s description of the close relationship between the companies involved in the program and his description of university relationships, asking both speakers to elaborate further since he did not see the government-industry-university collaboration aspect of what was being discussed. Welby replied that his comments referred to the agency-wide approach at DARPA and not to a particular program or specific contract. He felt that Joe was