By Abby Proch, Editor
If necessity is the mother of invention, then the U.S. government is the suckling child of innovation. It might a bit unsavory to admit, but it’s not too far off. In order to thrive — survive, even, in the midst of growing global competition — the U.S. government relies heavily on its relationship with industry and academia and their combined ability to provide nutritive technologies and solutions that fortify U.S. efforts in military and defense, national security, space exploration, medical advances, and more.
Realizations made amid international crises like the Russia-Ukraine war and China’s march toward technological supremacy, military and defense spending is strong. And the sector’s dependence on industry and academia for innovation holds fast.
Just last week, Senate Democrats proposed a $792 billion defense spending package — up roughly 9% for fiscal year 2022 — that includes $1.4 billion to expand industrial base capacity, $2.2 billion to accelerate military capabilities in space, and $1.8 billion to update test and evaluation infrastructure for emerging technologies. It is roughly $30 million more than a budget proposed by the House. The two chambers are expected to land on a final amount come Sept. 30, but skeptics say a budget extension may be needed if they don’t agree in order to avoid a government shutdown.
Even outside military and defense, there are no shortage of federal programs and funding opportunities for the innovators to latch onto. Established corporations, fledgling startups, and prospective entrepreneurs alike have reason to watch closely the announcements that crop up in search of the best and brightest. Here is just a sample of solutions government is seeking from industry and academic innovators:
- Imaging technologies and in and ex vivo diagnostics for the prevention, diagnosis, and/or treatment of cancer and drug abuse, as described the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), respectively
- Autonomy, communications, power, sensor, and space projects listed under Commercial Acceleration Opportunity (CAO) announcements through National Security Innovation Capital (NSIC)
- Liquid mirror telescope solution in which a mirror comprised of a reflective liquid surface spun into a light-focusing shape would retain its shape in the presence and absence of gravity, sought by the Defense Advances Research Projects Agency (DARPA)
- Medical, military and defense, and satellite communications applications-themed needs, as described on the Defense SBIR/STTR Innovation Portal
- A non-invasive, real-time intracranial pressure monitor to be used by medical personnel in limited resource settings
- A quick and cost-effective way to polish and finish optical-grade conformal ceramic window materials
- Hardware and/or software system that cuts cost and time to achieve full-wafer infrared non-destructive material screening of large-format Focal Plane Array (FPA) wafers
- A fused sensor solution for navigation in environments void of GPS functionality that uses modern miniaturized electronics and improves size, weight, power, and cost (SWaP-C), performance, and/or capabilities of existing missile system avionics
- Target-based hyperspectral sensor technology for use in missile system flight tests that maintains the SWaP-C existing systems.
- A GPS interference direction-finding sensor for surface and subsurface vessels to provide situational awareness of jamming and/or spoofing signals
- Navigation concepts using commercial Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellite constellations to provide accurate GPS-independent positioning and precise timing
- Funding and mentorship opportunities for academics and startups to support Department of Defense (DoD) capabilities through a diverse National Security Innovation Network (NISN) Acceleration program portfolio. Most 2022 programs are nearing a conclusion, with 2023 application information likely to appear at the end of 2022/start of 2023. (NISN)