AFWERX SBIR/STTR Open Topic Program

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

Other Funding
  • Program Type
    Other Funding
  • Funding Award
    Phase I: $50,000; Phase II: up to $750,000 (if Awarded)
  • Submission Deadline
    Three Solicitation Windows per Year
  • Program Duration
    Phase I: 90 days
  • Industry Focus
    Open Call for Solutions that Demonstrate the Potential to Deliver Innovative Technologies to the U.S. Warfighter
  • Eligibilty Requirements (Y/N)

SBIR Open Topic

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.

STTR Open Topic

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 an unrivaled opportunity for small businesses to protect their IP and establish themselves in both the commercial and federal marketplace.

The U.S. Air Force's AFWERX: Connecting innovators and accelerating results

AFWERX is the Air Force's team of innovators who encourage and facilitate connections across industry, academia, and the military to create transformative opportunities and foster a culture of innovation.

Our mission is to solve problems and enhance the effectiveness of the service by enabling thoughtful, deliberate, ground-up innovation.

We do this with an approach that combines startup urgency with the largest pool of motivated talent in the world to uncover opportunities to improve Air Force capabilities, connect and engage the right stakeholders, and facilitate outcomes. AFWERX was established in 2017 by the Secretary of the Air Force and reports to the Vice Chief of Staff of the Air Force.

How Does Air Force SBIR/STTR Create Technology Disruptively?

Simplifying The Acquisition Process

Air Force SBIR/STTR’s approach to the acquisition process reduces the timeline for topic solicitation to proposal submission to contract award. This is accomplished in the following ways:

  • Being less prescriptive when determining problem areas
  • Soliciting through “Open Topics” to encourage out-of-the-box thinking
  • Reducing proposal length
  • Allowing “smart” failure
  • Awarding “on-the-spot” contracts during Pitch Day events
  • Implementing the STRATFI/TACFI Program, designed to help promising companies bridge the “Valley of Death”
  • Supplemental Funding Pilot Programs (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 STRATFI, or Strategic Funding Increase, program is focused on large-scale, strategic capabilities at the DAF level. STRATFI offers small businesses between $3 million and $15 million in SBIR funds over a four-year period. Given the larger dollar size and strategic nature of the program, the matching requirements are more robust. For every $1 of SBIR/STTR funds, companies must also receive $2 of other government funds OR $1 of other government funds and $2 of private funds.
  • TACFI, or Tactical Funding Increase, program is focused on transitioning smaller-scale, tactical capabilities at the operational level. Through TACFI, small businesses can receive from $375,000 to $1.7 million in SBIR/STTR funds over a two-year period. For every dollar of SBIR/STTR funds, companies must also receive at least $1 of other government funding (i.e., non-SBIR/STTR) OR $1 of private funding.
  • Pitch Days

    Open solicitations will indicate whether or not they will be eligible to participate in a Pitch Day event. Read the solicitation instructions carefully.

    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 inaugural pitch day, held March 6 – 7th, 2019 in New York, proved out the concept of pitch days as a vehicle for evaluating technology, awarding contracts to small businesses and paying them in a matter of minutes. The average amount of time to award contracts and pay companies via government credit card following a successful pitch at the AF Pitch Day was 15 minutes. The fastest award occurred in only three minutes. Previously, the fastest award of a contract of this type was approximately 90 days – a period of time many small businesses and startups cannot survive without funding.

    In 2019, over $131 million dollars was awarded through pitch day events.

    Future Phases

    Check out an overview of each competition phase below - complete rules for each phase will be released as the competition progresses.


    Let’s Get Started.

    To apply or join the program, please submit an application.