A groundswell of emerging opportunities exists for innovative technologists and companies interested in doing business with the federal government. At the 2013* (really 2014) GEOINT Symposium held April 14 – 17 in Tampa, FL, several speakers threw out names like “GEOINT Solutions Marketplace,” “DIA Open Innovation Gateway,” “NeedipeDIA” and App Malls. So, what’s this all about?
Most of us are familiar with the revolutionary change mobile technology has had on our personal and work lives. Mobile technology has connected us with data and tools that save us money, perform analyses on the fly to help us make decisions (or find the best burger in town) and even tell us where to go, how to get there, and redirect us in the event of heavy traffic. Well, these facts and capabilities haven’t been lost on the federal government. They want in on the fun — and they are interested in mobile-based solutions that will help them do business more efficiently, and potentially, open up some new ways of doing business that they haven’t even thought of.
The federal government has caught on to the fact that many of their existing software solutions are developed using custom code, lack interoperability, and are expensive to build and maintain. They like the idea of leveraging solutions (yes, apps) built for the commercial market that can be tweaked for use within the government space.
Something else they like … R&D costs associated with commercial solutions are usually spread across customers, and for the most part, any maintenance updates are included in the cost of the solution or app. Talk about a big cost savings for the government, especially in this era of budget sequestration!
What’s next? There are several efforts underway that are designed to change the way the government does business and purchases solutions, as well as to draw in tech innovators such as yourself! Here’s a list of 5 things you can use to learn more and get started:
1. Small Business Administration (SBA)
If you haven’t already registered as a small business eligible to do business with the government, visit the Small Business Administration (SBA) at http://www.sba.gov. The SBA can help you get started, and they also have online training on a myriad of small business topics. You may be qualified for special socio-economic status that will give you access to Small Business Set-Asides.
Most government agencies, as well as the military, post needs and upcoming opportunities to https://www.fbo.gov. Opportunities are searchable by agency, location, type/set-aside code and keyword or solicitation number. Watch for Open Broad Agency Announcements (BAAs) and Customer Industry Days. BAAs are frequently used to market R&D opportunities, and Customer Industry Days provide interested parties an opportunity to visit the customer, learn more about their needs, and sometimes, the opportunity to present solutions and ideas.
3. Small Business Program Offices (SBPO)
Every government agency has a SBPO focused on helping small businesses work with their organization. Visit them to learn more about their respective government agency needs. If your solution, product or capability is something the agency needs, the SBPO will connect you with the right people and help you get your foot in the door. Some SBPOs have small business training opportunities, and most will help you connect with a large business in a mentor-protégée relationship. However, take note: these champions of the small business community will encourage you to uphold the highest standards of excellence and professionalism. They want to see you succeed and will do everything in their power to make it so, but they do expect you to do your part! SBPO contact information can usually be found as a link on the main page of agency websites.
4. Research, Research and More Research
Most government agencies post needs and challenges on their websites. You can also learn about their needs and challenges by doing a search by agency name, leadership names and programs. Videos and presentations on various topics from conferences and events are posted throughout the web, including on Agency Public Affairs Office websites. Industry organization websites are another great place to visit for information. A few examples: United States Geospatial Intelligence Foundation (USGIF): http://usgif.org and AFCEA International: http://www.afcea.org.
5. Emerging R&D from Agencies
Visit and read up on the new, emerging R&D and Innovation opportunities coming out of government agencies. Almost every agency already has a program to bring in innovation; however, several (like NGA and DIA) are working on new programs to make this process even easier. The DIA NeedipeDIA contains a dynamic, constantly updated list of agency innovation needs tied to a BAA program for white papers (See #2 above). They are also working on a new Open Innovation Gateway environment designed to allow innovators and mission users to co-create and showcase new capabilities in an emulated mission environment. The DIA Open Innovation Gateway is currently in beta and is expected to go live sometime in June 2014.
Another agency, NGA, announced several new initiatives at the 11th Annual Aerospace-Defense-Government Conference last Fall, the first being a GEOINT Solutions Marketplace (GSM) where innovators will have the opportunity to offer capabilities and match their products with agency needs. The GSM is expected to host tools, apps and capabilities and allow innovators to connect with agency users for testing and (hopefully) help NGA decide what solutions they want to buy.
Another platform being developed by NGA is the NGA Operational Workspace (NOW). NOW emulates the NGA mission environment and allows developers to create tools, apps and capabilities in a virtualized mission environment. Lastly, NGA will be fielding a third initiative, the NGA Developer Depot. The Developer Deport will be an online set of resources to help developers build solutions for NGAs Integrated Analytic Environment (IAE). Although NGA is very actively discussing these new initiatives, it is my understanding they are still in beta, but are expected to go live sometime in 2014. Here are some links to learn more about DIA and NGA business opportunities, as well as a few other opportunities for innovators:
- Defense Intelligence Agency Innovation- http://www.dia.mil/Business/Innovation.aspx
- National Geospatial Intelligence Agency – https://www.nga.mil/Partners/Pages/default.aspx
- In-Q-Tel – https://www.iqt.org
- DARPA – http://www.darpa.mil/Opportunities/Solicitations/DARPA_Solicitations.aspx