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SBIR and the Phase III Challenge of Commercialization: Report of a Symposium
pathway for SBIR businesses, resulting in many Phase III activities. The bill also called for the current study to evaluate the program, compare it with other science and technology initiatives, and recommend improvements.
How to Fund Phase III
He said that he was still working to improve Phase III and involved in debates on how to fund Phase III activities, which “remains one of the most significant issues in the program.” There was discussion about the Senate and the House Armed Services bill in 2005 that dealt with the subject. He brought to the conference several charts to illustrate the process of producing defense contracts, including purchasing and acquisition pathways, as well as other science and technology activities throughout the agency. The charts were extraordinarily complex, with many dozens of acronyms. And yet, he said, in order to make Phase III successful, the SBIR program had to be able to incorporate or feed into that labyrinthine process “in a way that makes sense to program managers.” He said that he believed it could be done, however, in a meaningful way so as to avoid the Valley of Death.
The Advent of Spiral Development
Dr. Gansler added that a major change now taking place in the acquisition process is “spiral development,”39 a method that is designed to constantly increase capability at lower and lower cost. This process brings an opportunity to take full advantage of the SBIR program, he said, by introducing in each subsequent cycle the changes that have been made in the previous cycles. The next challenge that has been discussed in this conference is to apply appropriate testing and evaluation to reduce risk to an acceptable level. This technique, which is being used for the Joint Strike Fighter, is an excellent focus for the SBIR program—to demonstrate techniques that lower risk and introduce them in subsequent cycles.
Spiral development was introduced in the mid-1980s as a way to reduce risk on large software projects. A spiral, or cyclical, approach is one that allows customers to evaluate early results and in-house engineers to identify potential trouble spots at an early stage. On subsequent “turns” of the spiral, early changes are incorporated, additional evaluation is done and changes made. The Department of Defense has adapted the technique as part of its evolutionary acquisition strategy to move newer technologies into large platforms, such as assault vehicles and computer systems, much more quickly. <http://www.washingtontechnology.com/news/18_5/cover-stories/20881-1.html>.