Thursday, March 3, 2011

Funding your "Game Changing" Space Innovation

NASA’s Game Changing Technology Division (GCT) within NASA’s Office of the Chief Technologist (OCT) announced this week it is looking for “Unique and Innovative Space Technologies” that helps achieve one of the fourteen Technology Areas (TA’s) on NASA’s Space Technology Roadmap:
  • TA01 Launch Propulsion Systems
  • TA02 In-Space Propulsion Technologies
  • TA03 Space Power and Energy Storage
  • TA04 Robotics, Tele-Robotics and Autonomous Systems
  • TA05 Communication and Navigation
  • TA06 Human Health, Life Support and Habitation Systems
  • TA07 Human Exploration Destination Systems
  • TA08 Science Instruments, Observatories and Sensor Systems
  • TA09 Entry, Descent and Landing Systems
  • TA10 Nanotechnology
  • TA11 Modeling, Simulation, Information Technology and Processing
  • TA12 Materials, Structures, Mechanical Systems and Manufacturing
  • TA13 Ground and Launch Systems Processing
  • TA14 Thermal Management Systems
The GCT is offering five to ten awards up to $5M per year with no individual award valued at more than $3M over three years ($1M per year max?). GCT is looking for technologies at a TRL of 3-4 and wants to mature them to a TRL of 5-6.

One of the challenges facing a new company with an idea is how to fund development of that idea. Seeking external capital too early usually results in interested investors taking a sizeable chunk of ownership for a relatively small investment since the company valuation is so low. And in many cases, these companies don’t even find interested investors. NASA’s GCT is offering an alternative method to jump start development to bring these innovations to market faster.

Here were some of the solicitation quotes I found interesting:

  • "This solicitation is focused upon these types of sudden and unexpected innovations that hold a potential for providing a “game changing” impact on the efficiency and effectiveness of space capability"
  • Speaking of the DARPA-like proposal process, “NASA expects this process to prevent unproductive proposal preparation for technology concepts that are unsuitable for unsuitable under this particular BAA"
  • "While other technology development activities seek the steady and deliberate evolution of well-understood systems, GCT focuses on developing radically new approaches to the Agency’s future space missions and the nation’s significant aerospace needs. Successful products of GCT will provide or lead to revolutionary advances in capability."
  • "Appropriateness for GCT: Does the proposed technology or concept have the potential to make radical improvement s in the way NASA accomplishes its missions?"
The GCT proposal process is also innovative (more DARPA-like). Instead of requiring these innovators to submit a full proposal up front (consuming precious time that could otherwise be devoted to innovating), the GCT contracting process starts small:

  1. A one-page exec summary. If NASA GCT likes it then…
  2. A White-paper describing the technology in more detail. If NASA GCT likes it then…
  3. A full proposal.
And all along the way GCT is offering feedback and improvements.  All you need right now is a “game changing” innovation and an executive summary. Let’s get to work.

1 comment:

  1. well, I've lots of ideas about Space but no funds to develop them