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Last Update: Thursday July 29, 2021

Key Idea: Consider Government Work (do it faster-cheaper-better)

The US government is the world's largest customer.  Small businesses like AZ Tech deliver products faster, cheaper and better than all other suppliers.   This is the International Space Station. Can you spot the space shuttle?   What time it is up there?   Ans: The same as Greenwich Mean Time TZ13

Key Question:


Have a look at city, county, state or federal governments.

Dr. Robert Norwood says, "... small businesses are funded to bring new innovative ideas and new technology into NASA."

Q: So, what are you waiting for? Remember the first point? What would a Zero Gravity environment do for your product development? Here is your chance to answer the question and write up the proposal.

A: Material science is still in its infancy. Opportunities are virtually boundless especially in nanotechnologies and microsystems. In 2001 the National Nanotechnology Initiative was launched; they spent $422 million in 2002, then $774 million in 2003, and over $847 million for 2004. Put your thinking caps on! These funds are not just for big business, the universities, and the national laboratories.

Sally Little invites us: "Milk our fundamental research. Here are our dreams. How do they match up with your dreams, small business?"

Q: How would you go about it?

A: Here is a simple suggestion: Go to Google, put in your key words that describe the most basic parts of your product line and add "+ SBIR" (without the quotes). For example, if you are a farmer and you grow corn, "corn + SBIR" and you'll find over 1000 references. You own haridressing salon, enter "cosmetics + SBIR" and you'll still be looking a hundreds of references to real SBIR awards for extending research.

Stanley McCall invites us to go to NASA's Internet Acquisition Service (which is at But, there are nine other branches of government that also have programs. Look first within the government sector that most readily serves your industry segment.

Q: Why not?

A: Too many of us do not think about the foundations of our own discipline. Every discipline has first principles and foundational concepts, and as a result there are also rules. And, we all know that rules are made to be broken. But, the only way to break a rule is to more fundamentally grasp the concepts that define the discipline. An SBIR grant may be a great way for you to fund your research of that "nutty idea" and, as a result, become more of a leading thinker within your own discipline.

The Lightbulb: The U.S. Government needs small businesses. Commercializing the results of basic research and development efforts is a major undertaking for American businesses, and small businesses play an important role in that undertaking.

Q: You heard it straight from Don Wilkes, not all of AZ Technology's projects are funded by SBIR grants, but a significant amount of the company's revenue is the result of mining opportunities to do business with the nation's largest customer, the United States government.

Is it worth the effort?

A: How much time did it take you to raise $850,000 of seed capital? That could be available for you and it is directed right at your core copentencies. Various government agencies use the funding available to take advantage of the intellectual capital of small business in a variety of ways.

Here's an excerpt from the Department of Defense's web page:
The SBIR (Small Business Innovation Research) Program provides up to $850,000 in early-stage R&D funding directly to small technology companies (or individual entrepreneurs who form a company)  The STTR (Small Business Technology Transfer) Program provides up to $600,000 in early-stage R&D funding directly to small companies working cooperatively with researchers at universities and other research institutions; " Fast Track provides a higher chance of SBIR/STTR award, and continuous funding, to small companies that can attract outside investors.

For the investors, Fast Track offers an opportunity to obtain a match of between $1 and $4 in SBIR/STTR funds for every $1 the investor puts in."

The U.S. Small Business Administration offers workshops and conferences providing small businesses with the tools and resources they need to prepare themselves to seek SBIR and STTR funding. Each department of the U.S. government publishes the specific projects it seeks to fund on its web page and provides additional resources to small businesses looking for opportunities to work for the government.

Think about it

Clip from: AZ Technology

Huntsville, Alabama:   Come to the Marshall Space Flight Center where small business is playing an ever-greater role in commercializing what was once top secret research and the domain of big business.

In this episode of the show we meet Don Wilkes, a scientist who started a business to build machines that no one else would. The year was 1989 when he started the business of his dreams, AZ Technology.

Don was quick to capitalize on a program that leverages our government's basic research to develop commercial products. It is called Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and the program is administered by ten federal agencies.

These agencies annually grant over $3 billion to small businesses, mostly through the Department of Defense and NASA.

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AZ Technology

Lynn Leeper, CEO

7047 Old Mansion Pike
Suite 300
Huntsville, AL 35806

Visit our web site:

Office: 256-937-9877

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Year Founded: 1989

Consider Government Work (do it faster-cheaper-better)

HATTIE: (Voiceover) Dr. Bob Norwood, director of the Commercial Technology Division at NASA, came from Washington, DC to talk with us.

BOB NORWOOD: We have a program that operates out of the Commercial Technology Office called the SBIR program. And in that sense, small businesses are funded to bring new innovative ideas and new technology into NASA. On the other side of it, in the commercial technology part, we look to partners, to find partners in the industry which are often small businesses to take the technology that NASA has and actually turn it into a commercial product and profit from that.

HATTIE: (Voiceover) Director of the Marshall Center's Technology Transfer Program, Sally Little, is enthusiastic about the role small business can play in all government R&D efforts.

SALLY LITTLE: There is that tendency to feel like the access is for large business only, but that's not the case. We're trying to change that paradigm. Now we say, `Here are the opportunities to partner. Here are our dreams. How do they match up with your dreams, small business?' I mean, who would have thought even five years ago that we would be saying to business, `Milk our fundamental research.'

HATTIE: (Voiceover) Stanley McCall is the small business officer in the Procurement Office at Marshall Space Flight Center. So if I'm a small-business owner and I want to do business with you, I want you to hire me or use my services, how do I do that?

STANLEY McCALL: OK. There would be several ways you could go about it. First of all, you want to track the many opportunities that may be coming out of NASA, and we have a unique way of doing that. We have a NASA Internet acquisition service, which is at, if any small business wants to see what opportunities there are at NASA. So you could look there and find out what opportunities are. You could visit our office here at the center.

HATTIE: Come see you.

STANLEY: Come see me. And we could discuss opportunities that we would have coming up here direct with the center. Well, you should definitely more than try. You should participate, because NASA does not only want you, it needs you, because we can't achieve our mission today without the small business playing the part that they have played, and what I think is going to be an increasing and ever growing part if they do play.
HATTIE: When the federal government sets out to achieve a goal outlined by the Congress or the president, a federal agency is charged with overseeing the task. When John Kennedy said, `Let's go to the moon,' NASA was given a new task. However, through trial and error, it has been discovered that federal agencies may not be as efficient as the private sector. So in many cases, jobs are outsourced to private companies.

We have pointed out here that the US federal government is the biggest customer in the world and it is required to award a certain percentage of its contracts to small companies.

Here we have studied several small businesses who have large government contracts. Don Wilkes is a special type of government contractor. He has written and won multiple federal grants which fund his groundbreaking thinking. To learn more about how to win a Small Business Innovative Research grant, click here.

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