The US government actively funds private sector R&D to meet its tech needs and support innovation.  The FY2020 federal budget has between $40-60 billion for private sector R&D, according to Eagle Point Funding, a consulting firm specializing in government grants and contract. Winning federal R&D funding provides startups with strong technology validation. This could help companies raise additional private or venture capital and form corporate partnerships to accelerate commercialization.  Technologies such as the internet, GPS and SIRI all got their start from US government grants.

Top industries for federal grants are Defense, Cyber, Energy and Advanced Material, where many technology areas of interest are relevant to Space. These include autonomous, communication and electronics systems. Other focus areas include robotics, sensors, UAV, data analytics, AI/ML, AR/VR, situational awareness, and more. Below are examples of current opportunities. See for more information.

  • NASA SBIR – Focus areas include data, sensors, electronics, communications, advanced materials and AI/ML. Anything that helps with space travel.
  • Army Applications Laboratory BAA – Focus areas include autonomous platforms, AI/ML, data visualization and synthetic environments, space, Internet-of-Things (IoT), quantum tech, assured Position, Navigation and Timing (PNT).
  • AFWERX Open Topic (DoD SBIR) – Accelerated SBIR funding within 60 days. Open to all tech that has dual commercial and government applications. Phase I involves identifying a stakeholder to conduct a feasibility study on how the Air Force can use the technology.

Lastly, there is a big difference between the two types of grants, Small Business Innovation Research (SBIRs) and Broad Agency Announcements (BAAs) in terms of level of funding and eligibility. While SBIR is better known in the startup community, it only accounts for 3.5% of overall federal R&D funding at $3.5 billion annual awards. Moreover, the company has to meet the Small Business requirement with more than 50% US ownership to be eligible for SBIR awards.  On the other hand, BAA does not have the same eligibility requirements, and it receives a much higher portion (96%) of the available federal R&D funding. BAA has a broad range of technology areas of interest, and could provides 2-5 years of continuous funding and offers a high award ceiling up to $65 million.