NATIONAL HARBOR, Maryland --
The Marine Corps is eyeing as many as a half-dozen new technologies that will help Marines gain an unfair advantage. These innovative technologies and more were on display at the Navy’s Forum for Small Business Innovation Research/Small Business Technology Transfer Research Transition in National Harbor, Maryland, May 16-18.
The Forum (formerly known as Navy Opportunity Forum) has been a long-standing venue for connecting SBIR/STTR-funded technologies with Marines and sailors, government acquisition and technical professionals, large primes, system integrators, and other potential partners and collaborators.
“The special aspect to working with small businesses is their ability to develop new concepts for the Marine Corps, in particular niches not generally focused on by larger corporations,” said Jeannette Evans-Morgis, deputy commander for Systems Engineering, Interoperability, Architectures and Technology at Marine Corps Systems Command. “Their lean, quick, innovative business model is something we really like.”
Products featured at this year’s FST ranged from a powerless field drying system for boots to a wireless gauge that can measure, record and display data from a blast.
Dry Super Absorbing Fabric uses absorbing polymers in a woven cloth that, when placed into the boot after use, can dry them in six hours or less. The cloth absorbs up to two liters of water—10 times its weight—and can reduce a variety of health risks associated with prolonged wear of wet gear.
The Blast Exposure Dosimetry System is designed to be worn by individual Marines. After an explosion, the system provides blast information like direction, severity and duration that can be used by medical personnel and researchers to determine the likelihood of internal injury to Marines.
“The goal for SBIR funding is to transition products that solve Marine Corps needs, from bidding to acquisition,” said Jeff Kent, SBIR/STTR program manager at MCSC. “These businesses generally do not build large-scale systems like aircraft, but rather smaller items that support MCSC programs.”
In fiscal year 2016, $12.2 million in Navy SBIR funding was distributed to MCSC, Program Executive Officer Land Systems and joint projects.
The six SBIR recipients featured at this year’s FST are in the second of three phases of award funding. The first phase is a feasibility study to determine the scientific or technical merit of an idea or technology. In phase two, firms develop prototypes of their products. Phase three is the goal of most SBIR projects, where their efforts are transitioned into products, tools or services that benefit the Marine Corps.
“Small businesses that participate in these programs play an integral role by providing the Marine Corps with innovative solutions for the needs of the fleet,” Kent said. “FST is an opportunity for Marine Corps Systems Command to meet with these businesses to share information and see the great ideas that are out there.”
Congress established the SBIR/STTR program in 1982 to increase opportunities for small companies to participate in federal research and development. SBIR focuses on funding small businesses to create innovative products that solve agency needs, while STTR funds small business collaboration with research institutions.
As the systems command of the Marine Corps, MCSC equips Marine forces with ground weapon and information technology systems to accomplish their warfighting mission. The Marine Corps SBIR/STTR program gives small businesses the opportunity to develop innovative advances in technologies to address Marine Corps needs.