Where does a company turn when it has technology that could solve a problem for the military? How does it go about making the proper contact? Can it find government funding for a project or does it have to find its own financing? Carole Winterhalter, textile technologist for NSRDEC (Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center) provides some advice on how to tap into the military market.
The first step is to read Natick’s Broad Agency Announcement (BAA) for a comprehensive list of the NSRDEC’s needs. The list also includes names and phone numbers of the proper contacts, as well as information on how to submit a white paper and a proposal. “Anybody who is really serious about working with us needs to read that entire site first,” Winterhalter says.
The next step is to look for the appropriate topic, find the point of contact and call that person. Winterhalter points out that having a phone conversation offers an opportunity to go into descriptive detail on what the company is proposing.
“It can save a lot of time to discuss your ideas right away,” she says. “It may be that we tried that solution in the past and there was a problem with it, so unless your product can overcome that deficiency, it would probably not be something we’d want to get further involved with.”
Also during that conversation, the expert can explain if there is a possibility to get funding to support that particular area. Natick works on an annual cycle, and even though it may be too late for funding for the current fiscal year, it might be the right time to submit something for funding the following year.
“Once the SME (subject matter expert) and the company have had their initial discussions and perhaps exchanged comments on the whitepaper, then the company may be invited to submit a formal proposal,” Winterhalter says. “Once that happens, it goes through the procurement process, which can take up to three months, or more. There are a lot of details that go along with that—it’s almost a specialty in and of itself.”
If a company already has a technology it has developed with its own funding, it has the intellectual property documented and has its patents or patent application submitted, then the development effort can be more informal.
“There also may be products that could be evaluated “as is” at our discretion or under a Testing Service Agreement,” Winterhalter says. “There are quite a few different opportunities for ways to look at technology that the industry has.”