NASA recently awarded $96 million to 128 American small businesses chosen to advance research and technology in Phase II of its Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program.
The selected businesses will support NASA space exploration by developing technologies in aeronautics, human space exploration and operations, science, and space technology. These innovations will also benefit the U.S. economy in Phase III when businesses focus on the commercial application of the research results.
Since NASA funding has come under major scrutiny in the past decade, the independent agency has made ROI an important objective, in addition to human enlightenment. The SBIR intends to make all space-based research serve a dual application by helping small businesses acquire, develop, and build products and services around government research and technology.
“NASA is proud of our investment in the success of small businesses and its long-term impact on our economy,” said Jim Reuter, Acting Associate Administrator at NASA. “We look forward to working with these promising small businesses to further advance NASA’s missions.”
The areas of research range from aiding human spaceflight to helping with Earthly ventures. One of the 128 businesses selected is Colorado-based Boulder Environmental Sciences and Technology (BEST). BEST will be using SBIR funding to develop a new antenna for use on small, economical satellites. The company hopes the advanced design will allow for enhanced communications at greater distances.
Research efforts like these are expected to benefit our economy, as well as NASA space missions. “The payoff for the dollars we invest today in NASA research may be decades down the road,” said Michael Mo, co-founder and CEO of KULR Technology. “The path may be bumpy and indirect, but it’s there. Investments taxpayers made in NASA more than 20 years ago will make major contributions to consumers and businesses across several billion-dollar markets.”
The development in Silicon Valley has been described as a hybrid public/private economy in which the federal government invests in businesses to create technologies that can be commercialized and help with national security operations. Think driverless cars, drone technology, and facial recognition software. As these 128 small businesses innovate for NASA missions, look for the not-so-subtle commercial potential down the road.