NASA has announced that it will invest more than $45 million in 365 proposals from American small businesses as part of the agency's Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs.
The programs fund the research, development and demonstration of innovative technologies that fulfill NASA's needs.
In addition, NASA requires that proposals from small businesses for the funding have "significant potential for successful commercialization," according to the SBIR/STTR website.
"These small businesses and research institutions represent the latest wave of innovators working to develop their game-changing concepts for potential infusion in a NASA mission and, ideally, eventual commercialization," NASA SBIR/STTR program executive Jason L. Kessler told FOX Business via email Tuesday night.
Small business concern (SBC) applicants that have 500 or fewer employees or a nonprofit research institute with ties to an SBC are encouraged to apply to the programs.
There are three phases for those admitted: idea generation, prototype development and infusion or commercialization of technologies, products and services.
In a March 25 release detailing the allocation, NASA stressed that small businesses were vital to their mission and said that 289 small businesses and 47 research institutions were due to receive Phase I funding in 2021 — with most going to first-time recipients.
"This year, we opened the Phase I solicitation period early to expedite funding in the hopes of providing crucial support to these incredibly resilient entrepreneurs, who continue to navigate the challenges presented by the pandemic, challenges that have dealt a blow to the small business community," Kessler explained.
NASA's SBIR program provides as much as $125,000 for idea generation and Phase I contracts last for six months while STTR contracts ‒ given to research institutions partnering with a small business concern ‒ last for up to 13 months.
Additionally, based on Phase I progress, companies are able to submit proposals to subsequent SBIR and STTR opportunities to receive more funding.
The proposals of businesses and institutions chosen by NASA have technical merit and commercial potential, as well as relate to the agency's work in human exploration, space technology, science and aeronautics.
Those selected come from 38 states, Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico and include the woman-owned and Connecticut-based Symatec Inc., which will develop radiation tolerant, high-voltage, high-power diodes.
Innoveering LLC, a Hispanic American-owned small business based in Ronkonkoma, New York, will develop a wind sensor to enable a flight path control system for high-altitude scientific balloon operations.
Under the STTR program, Vista, Calif.'s Quibtekk ‒ working alongside the University of New Mexico ‒ will develop a cheaper and more compact hardware package that provides a reliable calibration tool for detectors of quantum-sized information.
Lastly, NASA said that the STTR program was enhancing its efforts to increase participation by Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs) by launching two "pilot initiatives" that work with the MSI STEM Research and Development Consortium and NASA’s Minority University Research and Education Project.
Kessler said that NASA's "simple but impactful" goal with these programs is to fund small business owners with an eye toward "infusion in a NASA mission and commercialization in the wider marketplace."
"It is our sincere hope that the proposals selected for award develop into products that not only help NASA achieve its ambitious goals, but go on to serve as the foundation for businesses that provide jobs and livelihoods throughout the country," he said.
"We are excited to have a large cohort of new small businesses join the NASA family via the SBIR/STTR program," Jim Reuter, associate administrator for the agency’s Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD), said in the release.
The SBIR/STTR program is a part of STMD and is managed by the Silicon Valley-based Ames Research Center.