Three Company Profiles from the Case Studies
The case studies reported in Appendix E highlight the variety of technologies, businesses and uses for SBIR awards. As the cases highlighted in this box show, they improve our understanding of how firms view the SBIR program in practice and what role it plays in meeting the diverse missions of the federal government.
Creare, Inc. This privately held engineering services company located in Hanover NH was founded with a focus on engineering problem-solving. To date Creare has spawned a dozen spin-offs that employ over 1,500 people in the Hanover region and that generate revenues in excess of $250 million.
Creare specializes in solving agency-initiated problems. For example, when the Hubble space telescope failed due to an unexpectedly rapid depletion of solid nitrogen used to cool it, Creare was able to solve this problem for NASA by drawing on its knowledge of cryogenic refrigeration technologies developed through SBIR funded research.
Technology Management, Inc. The case study of this Cleveland firm illustrates the significance of SBIR as a source of early-stage funding. TMI used SBIR to support the basic and applied research necessary to prove its Solid Oxide Fuel Cell (SOFC) technology. The case also draws attention to the potential impact on the SBIR program of NASA’s new emphasis on spinning-in technologies from outside. By focusing on harvesting technologies with a higher readiness level for NASA’s near-term use, TMI’s CEO argues that spin-in erodes support for seeding technology development with a focus on long-term private-sector commercialization.
ARACOR. ARACOR’s mobile x-ray inspection system (Eagle) is now being used to inspect containers and trucks at the nation’s ports and borders for contraband. In less than 30 seconds, the Eagle can scan a densely loaded 20-foot container using full penetration and resolution. ARACOR has over $25 million in sales.
According to the firm’s founder, SBIR awards (78 Phase I and 42 Phase II awards from NSF, DoD, and NASA) played a very important role in developing the Eagle’s computed tomography (CT) technology. He pointed out that “SBIR is a brick, not a building.” A combination of SBIR awards were used to build the CT industrial inspection technology. ARACOR was purchased in 2004 by OSI Systems, Inc. (a NASDAQ company) and is now known as Rapiscan Systems High Energy Inspection Corporation.