is imperative for a small company. 3eTI considers SBIR as a leading source of funding and the company anticipates applying for further SBIR awards.
3eTI has continued with its focus—determined mostly by early SBIR awards—on wireless technologies. Within that area, the company explored various possibilities and partnerships. For example, while the majority of the company’s work has been geared towards U.S. Navy ships, 3eTI has expanded into wireless technologies that provide for antiterrorism and force protection at military bases and other government facilities.
The majority of the firm’s commercialization activities are due to SBIR. Phase III awards have allowed the company to commercialize their technology by providing seed funding. It allowed 3eTI to build a reputation and further develop its products, leading to 3eTI’s acquisition by EFJ, Inc.—a leading wireless telecommunications solutions company—in 2006.
3eTI has used SBIR’s sole source justification to gain a competitive advantage over large systems integrators, like Lockheed Martin, in federal procurement. Under this provision, the procurement advantage remains even if the small business enters a partnership with, or is bought out by, a large publicly traded company.
SBIR also informs small firms about the technical direction federal agencies are taking, and allows them to provide input for those technical solutions. SBIR affords small companies like 3eTI an opportunity to understand what direction federal agencies are heading and what their expectations are in terms of technology and product development. It would be difficult for a small company to get that kind of information outside the program.
In 1998, when the company first started receiving SBIR awards, it had less than 20 employees. Currently, 3eTI has approximately 95 employees. 3eTI has a ratio of four research personnel to one manufacturing personnel. This ratio is due to the fact that the company has historically manufactured only prototypes or small orders of units, and outsourced larger volume manufacturing of finished products.
The firm has sold products resulting from the SBIR projects to both the federal and private sector. 3eTI has also filed several patents and has published several scientific papers. 3eTI trademarks include AirGuard, InfoMatics, and Virtual Perimeter Monitoring System (VPMS).
Concern has been expressed regarding the delay between Phase I and Phase II awards. Funding gaps may be fatal to commercialization opportunities for small companies. When a company is counting on an award that is being dragged out, it may lose an important window of opportunity and customers that have their