SBIR Open Topics


21.1 Application Closed

  • 21.2 Application Pre-Release April 21

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 $750K per award matched funding encouraged | 300-500 awards per year
  • 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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Learn about upcoming events, innovation challenges, and have the opportunity to submit your tech ideas.

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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. Here is a walkthrough of this DSIP application portal along with a guide to contacting Air Force SMEs with questions on specific topics or focus areas.

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.

Supplemental Funding Pilot Program (TACFI and STRATFI)

The purpose of this pilot program is to catalyze the relationships between Air Force and Space Force end-users and acquisition professionals, private-sector innovators, and the investment community and to bridge the capability gap between current SBIR/STTR Phase II efforts and Phase III scaling efforts, facilitating delivery of strategic capabilities for the Department of the Air Force.

The DRAFT Notice of Opportunity can be found HERE. We invite everyone to provide feedback by emailing with the subject "FY21 SFPP Feedback". NOTE - this is just a draft, and does not commit the government in any way.

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