Air Force Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer program announces FY21 Open Topic schedule

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  • By Air Force Research Laboratory Public Affairs
WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio (AFRL) – The Air Force Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Program announced the release schedule for Fiscal Year 2021 open topics during day two of the AFWERX Accelerate event.
In coordination with the Department of Defense, AFWERX will release three open topics. The first call opens on Jan. 14 and closes Feb. 18, 2021, while the others open in May and September and close after 30 days.
In FY19, AF SBIR/STTR expanded the use of the open topics solicitation process to address areas of importance to the Air Force and Space Force. AFWERX Director Col. Nathan Diller explained the many benefits of using this process during the livestreamed event.
“With this approach, we can match problems with solutions from an expanded ecosystem,” he said. “Innovation matching allows the Air Force to reach solutions faster by taking advantage of innovative thinkers in a competitive, low-risk environment.”
Day two of the AFWERX Accelerate event also featured Jason Rathje, AFVentures managing partner, who discussed AFVentures, the commercial investment arm of the Air Force. He also provided insight into the Air Force and Space Force’s interests in using loans and credit to help grow the industrial base.
“AFVentures leverages commercial technology to deliver better capabilities to warfighters faster,” Rathje said. “We are committed to becoming a preferred partner for small business technology development.”
AFVentures leverages SBIR/STTR funding and private capital to deliver military capabilities, expand the industrial base for defense and grow the U.S. economy. Rathje explained that the AF SBIR/STTR program has awarded hundreds of contracts based on end-user needs.
Later, during a panel discussion for companies, several small business leaders shared their experiences working with AFWERX.
“I believe that AFWERX has made it frictionless for small businesses like us to be able to get in this process,” said Kyle Gillis, co-founder and CEO, Iconic Air.
“The STRATFI contract has been game-changing for ICON. The Air Force's support has helped accelerate our technology - particularly for rapidly deployable shelter - and given us the ability to support a wide array of projects across AFWERX, AFCEC, TMD and NASA. Future deployment of our technology is poised to enhance DoD agility,” said Kay Sheils, CFO, ICON.
Jimmy Colraine, an AFVentures partner, moderated a panel discussion for investors that examined the advantages and challenges of investing in the DoD SBIR ecosystem from the perspective of venture capitalists and other investors. Participants discussed how the investment community engages with the AFVentures process, essentially co-investing with the Department of the Air Force.
While commenting on current market trends, Katherine Boyle, a partner in the venture capital firm General Catalyst, noted that, “it has never been cooler to work on aerospace and defense.”
Day two also included an overview of AFVentures’s response to COVID-19 and academic research into recent reforms to SBIR/STTR. Day three of AFWERX Accelerate, which begins at 12 p.m. Eastern on Dec. 9, will focus on all the ways Airmen and Space Professionals can get involved with AFWERX and drive innovation within the Department of the Air Force. AFWERX will also review Spark, which aims to build networks of problem solvers.
To register and learn more about AFWERX Accelerate, visit, For the live feed of the event activities, visit or beginning at 12 p.m. Eastern through December 11.
About AFRL

The Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) is the primary scientific research and development center for the Department of the Air Force. AFRL plays an integral role in leading the discovery, development, and integration of affordable warfighting technologies for our air, space, and cyberspace force. With a workforce of more than 11,000 across nine technology areas and 40 other operations across the globe, including AFWERX, AFRL provides a diverse portfolio of science and technology ranging from fundamental to advanced research and technology development. For more information, visit:

Established in 2017, AFWERX is a product of the Department of the Air Force, directly envisioned by former Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson. Her vision of AFWERX — to solve some of the toughest challenges that the Air Force faces through innovation and collaboration amongst our nation’s top subject matter experts. AFWERX serves as a catalyst to unleash new approaches for the warfighter through a growing ecosystem of innovators. As a part of the Air Force Research Laboratory, AFWERX and the Department of the Air Force are committed to exploring viable solutions and partnerships to further strengthen both our space and air forces, which could lead to additional prototyping, R&D, and follow-on production contracts.
Fast Company named AFWERX Best Workplaces for Innovators on the 2020 List, honoring the top 100 businesses and organizations that demonstrate a deep commitment to encouraging innovation at all levels. AFWERX, the Department of the Air Force’s innovation arm and catalyst for fostering innovation within our space and air forces, came in at #16 ranking in the top 20 alongside brands such as Microsoft, Google, and Amazon.