One of the core legislative objectives of the SBIR program is that it contributes to each agency’s mission. DoD’s SBIR program has nurtured many technological innovations that have made significant contributions to DoD’s mission capabilities.42 SBIR-spawned innovations have contributed to enhanced combat capabilities, and provided technological solutions to meet sudden, unexpected military threats.

Detailed analysis of Phase III at DoD is provided in Chapter 5.

Unique Benefits of SBIR at DoD
Enhanced Flexibility and Innovation

SBIR-funded projects have proven to be of especial value in generating technological approaches to new, unexpected problems that have arisen in ongoing military engagements in Afghanistan and Iraq. The high degree of flexibility characteristic of small firms means that SBIR has provided DoD with an increased number of suppliers capable of quickly responding on short notice43 to unanticipated battlefield situations (such as the use of improvised explosive devices [IEDs] in Iraq).

DoD has used the SBIR program to move quickly from identification of a DoD need to issuance of Phase I and then Phase II awards, and then to rapid deployment of operational equipment to meet pressing needs. Among the success stories contained in the case studies are the use of unmanned aerial vehicles for collecting over the horizon intelligence (Advanced Ceramics), the development of hand-held language translators (Marine Acoustics/Voxtex), the invention of radio detection and explosive devices to combat improvised explosive devices (First RF), and the production of an automated ammunitions sorter (Cybernet).

According to DoD SBIR program officials, SBIR has also proven an important and successful means of attracting the interest of small, high-technology firms to address specific R&D and operational needs where the potential market is too small to attract the interest of large defense contractors or venture-backed firms.

DoD officials point to a number of other benefits from the SBIR program:

  • It has increased the number of potential suppliers for new technologies, and also created new opportunities for these firms to partner together in new undertakings.


Dr. Charles Holland, Deputy Under Secretary for Science and Technology, Department of Defense, “Meeting Mission Needs,” in National Research Council, SBIR and the Phase III Challenge of Commercialization, Charles W. Wessner, ed., Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 2007.


Dr. Mike McGrath, Deputy Assistant Secretary for RDT&E, U.S. Navy.

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