STTR Open Topics


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  • Application period open Sept. 23 to Oct. 22

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Commercializing Research

Technology advances affecting our national security continue to emerge from our university system and R&D communities. The Air Force's competitive advantage will be our collective ability to quickly identify, validate, and integrate those technologies.

The Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) program ‘Open Topic’ aims to help small businesses commercialize emerging research in partnership with a university, non-profit entrepreneurship center, or research center. Different from the traditional STTR program, the Open Topic is ‘open’ to any technology, customer, or application.

By streamlining the proposal process, accelerating contract award, and providing direct access to our global network of customers and capital, our STTR Open Topic provides unrivaled opportunity for small businesses to protect their IP and establish themselves in both the commercial and federal marketplace.

Not affiliated with a research institution? Check out the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Open Topic.

Man conducts hypersonic research

How it Works

The following opportunities are available through AFVentures and the STTR 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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Learn about upcoming events, innovation challenges, and have the opportunity to submit your tech ideas.

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Steps to Get Started

1. Determine if your company is eligible

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

Review the full eligibility guidelines here.

2. Browse Mission Focus Areas (current as of Sept 1, 2020)

While the STTR Open Topic allows any businesses that meets the STTR criteria to apply, we encourage applicants to view the list of Air Force focus areas to help to determine if your product or service might already be desired by a certain unit.

These will be released during each application period.

3. Review application requirements and prepare to submit required materials

Start by applying for a Small Bet (Phase I STTR 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.

4. 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 Air Force focus areas and host AFWERX events like Spark Colliders and AFWERX Fusion for you to connect with government stakeholders.

5. 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.

6. 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.

Mission Focus Areas (current as of Sept 1, 2020)

To assist SBIR/STTR companies in the customer discovery process, we collect focus areas from Air Force personnel. Keep in mind that, even if your solution matches one of the focus areas, this is not included in the evaluation criteria for Small Bet (Phase I) applications.

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


  • Aug

    SBIR/STTR 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/STTR 20.3 Applications Open

    Submit Proposal Online
  • Oct

    SBIR/STTR 20.3 Applications Close

    Award Announcement approximately 30-45 days after close

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