NASA to Award US$51 million in Grants to Small BusinessesBy José Escobedo | Wed, 07/01/2020 - 18:45
To keep space technology innovation alive and closer to the stars, NASA recently announced a total sum of US$51 million to be invested in small business grants and contracts with more than 300 companies located in 44 states and in Washington, D.C.
On a press release, NASA says it has selected 409 technology proposals for the first phase of funding from the agency’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) program. Recipient projects are in the crucial early-stage funding. These “phase I” projects receive up to US$125,000 to help bring new technologies to market, reports TechCrunch.
“NASA depends on America’s small businesses for innovative technology development that helps us achieve our wide variety of missions,” said Jim Reuter, Associate Administrator for NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate in Washington. “Whether we are landing Artemis astronauts on the Moon, sending rovers to Mars or developing next-generation aircraft, our small business partners play an important role.”
An interesting fact is that more than 100 of the selected companies are considered to be first-time recipients of a NASA SBIR or STTR contracts and women-owned businesses, including minority groups, make up 27 percent of total grant recipients, reports NASA.
These grants represent an array of technologies that will benefit human space exploration. These include NASA’s Artemis program, as well as studies and research projects related to science, technology and aeronautics. Many of the innovations also have potential applications on Earth, reports TechCrunch.
NASA’s objective is to help small businesses bring their innovations to life through Phase I awards. The agency reports that Phase I SBIR contracts will last for six months and Phase I STTR contracts will last for 13 months.
“A Phase I award is just the first step in helping these small businesses bring their technologies and ideas to market,” said NASA SBIR/STTR Program Executive Jenn Gustetic. “We know these companies not only need funding but business guidance and industry expertise to help them develop better products and grow. Our program aims to help each of them in their journey to commercialization.” Based on their progress during Phase I, companies may submit proposals to subsequent SBIR/STTR opportunities and receive additional funding.
In Mexico, the aerospace industry has made great strides in past years. Earlier this year, UNAM, considered one of the best universities in the world, approved the creation of the Bachelor's Degree in Aerospace Engineering managed by the School of Engineering in Ciudad Universitaria. Students who enroll must cover 450 credits divided in 10 semesters. The curriculum focuses on allowing students to understand and apply language and terms used in the aerospace industry, as well as generating technological and competitive projects and applications for Mexico’s aerospace industry.
UNAM considers this new degree crucial for the development of the auto parts, aerospace and aeronautical manufacturing sectors that have grown exponentially due to the country’s numerous free trade agreements and robust labor force.
In the last decade, more than 300 leading aerospace exporting companies have opened operations in Mexico. Around 80 percent of these companies are manufacturers and 20 percent offer design and engineering, maintenance, repair and operations services.