DEFTECH supports local innovative small businesses to win DoD contracts

With billions in federal contracts on the table, DEFTECH helps small businesses compete for valuable federal contracts.

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By Abbey Slattery, WRAL Digital Solutions
This article was written for our sponsor, North Carolina Military Business Center (NCMBC).
Each year, the federal government sets a small business federal contracting goal, amounting to billions of dollars in contracts. In 2020, the government exceeded its goal of 23%, awarding 26.01%, or $145.7 billion in federal contracts to small businesses.
In North Carolina, the North Carolina Military Business Center’s DEFTECH, or Defense Technology Transition Office, helps connect small innovating businesses with federal small business innovative research (SBIR) and rapid prototyping opportunities. According to Denny Lewis, director of DEFTECH, the organization’s members landed more than $10 million in defense contracts in 2021.

While the process of working with entities like the Department of Defense may be intimidating for small and medium-sized businesses, DEFTECH helps make connections and overcome obstacles.

“One of the services that DEFTECH offers is to help our businesses and academics in the NC Defense Innovation Ecosystem navigate and translate the DoD culture, lingo and bureaucracy. We send out business opportunities, provide feedback to companies on proposals and often connect them to the right people and offices in DoD and other national security entities,” said Lewis. “Working with any large bureaucracy is always challenging, but the DoD is trying to make it easier. The DoD has a variety of programs geared toward small, non-traditional innovator businesses to help them better understand DoD needs and make it easier and less expensive to do business with the government.”

DEFTECH maintains trusted relationships with many military entities, and often will connect North Carolina businesses to the right organization. These DoD organizations also participate in DEFTECH events to let businesses know about specific needs and to learn about what relevant activities are going on within the state.

The office is also constantly scouting for companies and within academia to find those that are developing new technologies or that have commercial technologies that could be applied to DoD needs. By comparing the abilities of state business with DoD needs, DEFTECH makes valuable connections for both parties.

“As more companies join DEFTECH, those companies talk to their friends and bring them in and they join, which has helped us achieve more synergy among the group. Experience and relationships developed throughout our careers within the Department of Defense, the defense industrial base and academia allow us to share these perspectives with partners, to add value to our partners and to increase their probability of winning,” said Lewis. “It takes time for people to get confident enough to understand the problem and make the effort to submit a solution, but we offer services that help them through the whole process.”

Two of the most important recommendations that DEFTECH shares with its partners are to prepare a brief “elevator speech” about their product or service, as well as a quadrant chart with all the important information that DoD decision-makers need to know about their innovation.

Since Lewis and his team have years of experience with the DoD, they know how to help businesses communicate and present their product or service in terms that the DoD will understand. Through DEFTECH, companies can even practice their pitches and receive feedback from DEFTECH and other participants during a portion of their weekly Friday coffee calls.

Already, DEFTECH has helped small businesses across the state find success with federal contracts. A few examples include:

  • Murano Corporation in Research Triangle Park, which won two Small Business Innovation Research contracts using artificial intelligence to predict future supply chain disruptions for the Navy and Air Force.
  • SECMATION in Raleigh, which won several contracts and funding from the Office of Naval Research to develop a modular cyber-secure unmanned aerial systems platform.
  • Ravensafe/ULP in Charlotte, which won an Air Force award for early research into a portable power device for battlefield operations.
  • Attolo, LLC in New Bern, which won a Navy contract to provide tests, evaluation and engineering services that take advantage of AI and machine learning to automate unmanned vehicles.

As more federal contracts become available, DEFTECH aims to help more local companies capitalize on the opportunities.

“We’ve created an environment where people have a safe place to understand the end-user and share their elevator pitches, and also to speak with teaming partners who can work with them and bring parts together to offer a whole solution,” said Bob Burton, senior manager at DEFTECH. “Part of the education piece is the understanding that we’ve built on the national security customers – which happens through webinars — so companies, businesses and universities better understand what the needs and opportunities are. It's all about increasing connections, awareness and overall education. I think we're poised for a great year this year because of the increased research and development funding available from the federal government.”

This article was written for our sponsor, North Carolina Military Business Center (NCMBC).

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