Small-Biz Billions Hit the Road
Reps from several government agencies are going on an eight-day, six-state tour, hunting for new technology in areas including high-speed networking, storage networking, and data security. The agencies are promoting Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR), two programs that together offer more than $2 billion annually to small U.S. technology companies and research institutions.
The agencies -- which include the all branches of the military, as well as the Department of Transportation and the Environmental Protection Agency -- are looking for U.S. companies with no more than 500 employees that have R&D projects that could benefit the federal government and have strong commercial potential.
The $2 billion kitty is awarded in smallish chunks, in three phases. Phase I awards up to $100,000 to test the feasibility of a concept. Phase II supports funding up to $750,000 to develop a Phase I project into a working model. And Phase III pushes companies to seek additional funding from venture capitalists and other sources so the companies can transfer the new technology into the public sector.
One company that received funding in the past couple of years is Rockville, Md.-based Acadia Optronics, which made headlines earlier this year when it helped the Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) build "the fastest known cryptographic system based on transmission of single photons" -- a potentially huge advance in data encryption.
Acadia also received a Phase II award this year for its optical front-end for 10-Gbit/s network interface cards. The project is described on a U.S. Dept. of Energy Website as an attempt to make high-speed optical communications links inexpensive enough for end users on a network. [Ed. note: 10 Gbit/s to the desktop? I can barely keep my 3 Mbit/s cable modem busy!]
Physical Optics Corp., of Torrance, Calif., also received Phase II funding last year for building a fiber optic backplane to speed up supercomputers. The interconnection system, if commercialized, could make supercomputers used in weather forecasting and data center applications much more productive.
Phase I winners from this year include Sunnyvale, Calif.'s Pentum Group Inc., which is working on SAMTP (Sonet Application Memory Transport), an attempt to develop a new data transfer protocol that will provide low cost, higher speed, and networking between computers connected through existing long-distance fiber optic links. The protocol, if commercialized, could lead to "improved quality of video conferencing, technology collaborations, scientific and engineering simulations, computer gaming, and more efficient use of the telecommunications infrastructure," according to the Dept. of Energy.
The SBIR/STTR bus tour will be pulling into Louisville, Ky., on Sept. 9; Memphis on Sept. 10; St. Louis on Sept. 13; Chicago on Sept. 14; Indianapolis on Sept. 15; and Detroit on Sept. 16.
— Phil Harvey, News Editor, Light Reading