was an important aspect of the program, according to Shamma. The collaborative relationships developed between member universities provide opportunities to share resources and knowledge (one example is the sharing of hardware and software testbeds by members of` the UCLA-led MURI team).
Contact with program managers at DOD before and during the solicitation process, to the extent allowed by government solicitation guidelines, is encouraged in order to better align expectations and projected results from the research. Annual site visits to the universities that participate on a MURI are also part of the process. Shamma noted that MURIs were not constricted by large volumes of paperwork or reporting requirements. Publications and presentations of technical work are considered more important products—something that is rather appealing to academia. The DOD laboratories and the universities are not allowed to compete, a proscription that Shamma believed was crucial to developing positive relationships between collaborators.
One negative aspect of the MURI effort discussed by Shamma was the program’s tendency to have large numbers of team members. Multicampus management can be inefficient, subcontractor billing is slow, and the involvement of many participants reduces the amount of money available to individual campuses and principle investigators. Another challenge is the inability of the team’s leading university (or principal investigator) to direct the research focus of the other team members owing to the lack of control over funding for these members.
The initial 3-year duration (with an option for renewal) of the MURI awards lends itself to academic research. Shamma noted that most of the breakthroughs in MURI research came after the midpoint of the award, so some longevity of funding was helpful in achieving success. Although not directly applicable to the MURI discussion at hand, panelists at this point mentioned that when industry and academia cooperated, universities should not be placed in the critical path to technology development.
John Roth from MicroSat Systems discussed his perspective on DOD’s relationship with small business—in particular, his company’s experience after winning the first OTA contract between small business and the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) on the TechSat21 program. Investors were asked to provide funds in the amount of $10 million to leverage the $26 million provided by DOD. At first, the OTA seemed to be a good contracting mechanism for the company because of the flexibility it provided. There was opportunity for MicroSat to recoup its investment through the government’s purchase of its follow-on satellites. However, a change in leadership at AFRL led to the laboratory’s cancellation of the project, which at the time made up 90 percent of MicroSat’s portfolio. Roth said that his company learned important lessons from its survival experience. He believed that the government/industry contracting relationship was very one-sided in favor of the government. For small companies asked to cost share on contracts, there is no guarantee that the government will honor the original intent of the agreement, since military management changes frequently and all programs are incrementally funded annually by Congress and subject to cancellation. Government should be cognizant that its decisions on cost share and program redirection can have dire immediate effects on small businesses.
Discussion on the part of the attendees centered on the role of small business in the competition for technological prizes. Several people said that investment companies