SBIR Open Topics


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  • Application open Sept. 23 to Nov. 5, 12 pm EDT

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Now’s the time to do business with the Air Force

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.

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

Affiliated with a research institution? Check out the Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Open Topic.

How it Works

The following opportunities are available through AFVentures and the SBIR Open Topic:

  • Many Small Bets (Phase I) "a simple, open door for innovation" - Up to $50,000 per award | 1000-1500 awards per year | Three solicitations per year
  • Some Medium Bets (Phase II) - Up to $1.5M per award matched funding encouraged | 300-500 awards per year | Live & Virtual Matching
  • A Few Big Bets (Strategic Financing) - Up to $15M (SBIR) Awards | 20+ Awards per year | 1:1:2 Program-SBIR-Private Matching | Annual Solicitation

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How to Apply

1. Determine if your company is eligible

To be eligible for the SBIR Open Topic program, companies must:

Review the full eligibility guidelines here.

2. Review application requirements and prepare to submit required materials

Start by applying for a Small Bet (Phase I SBIR contract) on the Defense SBIR/STTR Innovation Portal (DSIP). The application materials will be released during the next application cycle. You can also review additional application resources here.

3. If selected for a Phase I contract, find an Air Force customer

To be able to apply for a Medium Bet (Phase II), you must locate an Air Force customer and have them sign a customer memorandum signifying their intention to work with your company.

To assist in the customer discovery process, we've collected AFVentures Technology Focus Areas and host AFWERX events like Spark Colliders and AFWERX Fusion for you to connect with government stakeholders.

4. Apply for a Phase II contract

If you find a match between your product and an Air Force end-user, you can apply to receive up to $3 million for a trial period of your solution with your Air Force user.

5. Progress to contract with any U.S. Federal Government Agency

After the trial, you are eligible for a contract that doesn't require additional competition with any agency in the U.S. Federal Government. These contracts move beyond the SBIR Open Topic process and are not executed by AFWERX.

Pitch Days

The introduction of the pitch day concept marked a dramatic shift in the Air Force’s acquisition strategy, creating a faster, smarter method to get cutting-edge technologies and capabilities into the hands of warfighters. Designed to speed up the investment process, the event has continued to expand its reach and scope.


The Air Force's strategic financing program aims to bridge the gap between experimentation and implementation, help find your unicorn and grow the national economy.

This program does the following:

  • Big Bets - Requires some buy in, but allows you to leverage SBIR and private capital to buy down the risk of trying something new.
  • Plan & Partner - STRATFI endorsements must show strong intent to transition — program planning, establishment of requirements, etc.
  • Broaden Horizons - Encourage your teams to open up to a broader solution space.

  • Questions? Contact Us

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

    Important Dates

    • Aug

      SBIR 20.3 Open Topic Pre-Release

      View the pre-release and use this time to ask questions of the topic sponsor
    • Aug

      20.3 SBIR/STTR Open Topic AMA #1

      Register for this webinar on Aug. 28, from 12-1 p.m. EDT.
    • Sept

      20.3 SBIR/STTR Open Topic AMA #2

      Register for this webinar on Sept. 18, from 12-1 p.m. EDT.
    • Oct

      20.3 SBIR/STTR Open Topic AMA #3

      Attend this webinar on Oct. 9, from 12-1 p.m. EDT.
    • Sept

      SBIR 20.3 Applications Open

      Submit Proposal Online
    • Nov

      SBIR 20.3 Applications Close 12 pm EDT

      Award Announcement approximately 30-45 days after close

    View the Air Force SBIR/STTR website for more information about the overarching program.