Airmen Guide to SBIR


Partner with industry to solve Air Force problems

Through a competitive awards-based program, the Small Business Innovation Research Program (SBIR) program enables small businesses to explore their technological potential and provides the incentive to profit from its commercialization.

AFWERX, in partnership with Air Force Research Lab (AFRL), and the National Security Innovation Network (NSIN), developed the SBIR Open Topics to increase the efficiency, effectiveness, and transition rate of the SBIR program.

For these topics, companies with existing commercial products or services that may also be useful to the Air Force are invited to apply. Several barriers to working with the Air Force have been removed or mitigated for this program, to include a shorter application process, an accelerated contract award, and a shorter period of performance.

Since the introduction of the Open Topic in late 2018 through August 2019, we have received more than 2900 submissions, awarded more than 900 contracts worth a combined total of approimately $220 million.

Airmen are encouraged to locate a SBIR Phase I company that could potentially help solve a problem at their unit, sign a memorandum of agreement to work with them using the SBIR program’s funding, and search for SBIR Phase III company products and services that can be purchased sole-source via nearly any color of money.

See below for a guide on how Airmen can leverage the SBIR program.

For industry looking to leverage SBIR, check out our SBIR for Industry page.

Affiliated with a university? Check out our Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) page.

Innovation Stories

Airmen, companies tackle mission pain points during AFWERX Spark Collider

Over the span of two days, more than 150 Airmen representing 50 bases and 200 entrepreneurs representing 100 Small Business Innovation Research Phase I companies joined together to see which missions could match up to an associated business product.

Dyess Airman attends AFWERX innovation event, receives $125,000 for project

Tech. Sgt. Cynthia Ward, 7th Equipment Maintenance Squadron Aerospace Ground Equipment support section NCO in charge, attended an AFWERX inaugural Spark Collider event in Austin, Texas, Aug 14, 2019, where she received $125,000 to work on a project that encompasses building an automated AGE tracking system.

Gunfighter Spark Cell explores new ideas, promotes innovation

Several innovative ideas that support Gunfighter mission execution are closer to becoming a reality thanks to the first Gunfighter Spark Cell problem curation workshop.

Join Our Ecosystem

Learn about upcoming events, innovation challenges, and have the opportunity to submit your tech ideas.

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How to Leverage the SBIR Program

1. Browse SBIR Companies

If you are interested in partnering with a SBIR company to see if their product or service aligns with your mission, review our portfolio of awardees here or contact us at for the full portfolio.

2. Submit your Problems and Needs

To funnel potential SBIR companies to the Air Force units that could use their services the most, we collect Operator “Needs IDs” via the Air Force’s Ideation Platform and release them to industry.

If you’d like to submit a new Needs ID, log onto IdeaScale and submit your operator need to the SBIR campaign. Watch this video to learn how to submit.

3. Partner with a SBIR Company

To officially partner with a SBIR company in Phase I, you must complete a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to indicate your interest before they can move on to Phase II--a trial with the Air Force funded through the SBIR program--and Phase III--a sole-source contract.

Questions? Contact Us

If you have any questions, join us for our weekly AFWERX webinars or reach out to us at


Want to run a pitch day?

Air Force Pitch Days focus on awarding contracts with on-the-spot payments to startups and small businesses based on streamlined evaluation of white papers and in-person presentations.

With Air Force Pitch Days and several other initiatives, the Air Force is working at the speed of relevance to keep pace with today’s dizzying technology pace. It all starts by inviting in a world of amazing ideas, partnering, and moving with utmost celerity.

Organizations interested in learning more about Air Force Pitch Days or running their own event should contact


  • Dec

    SBIR 20.1 Topic Pre-Release

    Use this time to ask questions of the topic sponsor
  • Jan

    SBIR 20.1 Applications Open

    Submit Proposal Online
  • Feb

    SBIR 20.1 Applications Close

    Award Announcement approx ~30-45 days after close
  • Apr

    SBIR 20.2 Topic Pre-Release

    Use this time to ask questions of the topic sponsor
  • May

    SBIR 20.2 Applications Open

    Submit Proposal Online
  • Jun

    SBIR 20.2 Applications Close

    Award Announcement approx ~30-45 days after close
  • Aug

    SBIR 20.3 Topic Pre-Release

    Use this time to ask questions of the topic sponsor
  • Sept

    SBIR 20.3 Applications Open

    Submit Proposal Online
  • Oct

    SBIR 20.3 Applications Close

    Award Announcement approx ~30-45 days after close