Small Business Strong: Leveraging Scientific Excellence and Technological Innovation for Shared Success with Next Generation Interceptor

It takes a team to accomplish big missions, and Lockheed Martin is proud to partner with small businesses to solve complex challenges, advance scientific discovery and deliver innovative solutions that help our customers keep people safe.

Leveraging unique government programs that help small businesses develop transformational technologies,  Lockheed Martin is ready and able to get those advanced technologies into the hands of the ultimate end user, the warfighter. A prime example of this is Lockheed Martin’s work on the Missile Defense Agency’s (MDA) Next Generation Interceptor program, where small business engagement is already realizing great success.

Next Generation Interceptor Leads the Way

With Next Generation Interceptor (NGI), Lockheed Martin has committed to exceeding the government’s goals for small business participation. NGI is a missile defense interceptor program designed to protect and defend the U.S. from intercontinental ballistic missiles and serves as a first line of a layered missile defense architecture against evolving threats from rogue nations.

Last month, Lockheed Martin formalized two more strategic relationships with small businesses on the robust NGI industry team as Valley Tech Systems (VTS), a Voyager Space company, and Space Information Laboratories (SIL) announced separate subcontracts to support NGI.  These companies, through the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Programs, developed innovative technologies in propulsion and flight termination systems that will now be commercialized and integrated with NGI.

That’s what it’s all about, according to Sarah Reeves, vice president of the Next Generation Interceptor Program at Lockheed Martin. She notes that the MDA's SBIR and STTR programs, are the fourth largest in the Department of Defense. The Lockheed Martin NGI team wants to carry that game changing technological work forward for the maximum benefit to the mission.

“We are excited for the opportunity to incorporate these important technologies MDA has already strategically invested in to accomplish their critical missions,” said Reeves. “The government sets a high bar for inclusion of small business content in programs like the Next Generation Interceptor. Our relationships with small technology businesses, cultivated over years of collaborative work through the SBIR/STTR programs, allowed us to partner with these companies to transition their innovations, demonstrate a logical risk reduction path and apply it in this important mission.”

What is SBIR/STTR and why does it matter?

The Federal Government’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Programs are critical to mission success because they provide seed funding for emerging technologies that help maintain U.S. leadership. The ultimate goal is to help those technologies transition from development to deployment.

Through the SBIR/STTR process, the government gives small businesses (who have competed for the opportunity) an initial boost of funding to get started on technological innovations. Small businesses who are awarded Phase I & II contracts can take their ideas from paper concept to initial prototype. But eventually, as they mature, those innovations need buy-in from defense contractors (or primes) through this program, so they can make it into production to benefit the warfighter-- as Lockheed Martin is doing with NGI.

“Lockheed Martin’s active participation in the SBIR program provides opportunities for cost savings, performance enhancements and innovation while also strengthening relationships in the small business community with a progressive and non-traditional supply chain,” said Steve Walker, chief technology officer and vice president, Engineering & Technology at Lockheed Martin. “Bolstered by the success of this program, we will continue to enhance our research and development efforts by seizing on the opportunities found in the SBIR program to stay on the cutting edge of innovation.”

The “Valley of Death” and its Risk to Innovation

Speed of innovation and relevance matter in a world where the threat is rapidly evolving. Advanced technologies need every chance they can get to grow and mature. Primes can provide that bridge that’s important to cross. The risk of not securing transition support from primes can be costly for small businesses, their innovations and the mission because without it, these technologies may never be used.

Some experts refer to this difficult period, when many projects can languish in purgatory between development, prototype and commercialization, as “the valley of death.”

Lockheed Martin recognizes that, as a prime contractor, our role is critical to overcome this “valley of death.”

“Lockheed Martin has worked with Valley Tech Systems for about 5 years, collaborating on propulsion-related research and development projects. Propulsion technologies are essential for the strategic missile and missile defense systems that Lockheed Martin provides to the Department of Defense,” said Moon Patel, Chief Engineer.

SBIR is a plan that works, and benefits everyone.

Small Business Success is Success for All

The transition of novel technologies into programs of record ultimately can drive diversity of thought, improved  performance, capabilities and affordability into legacy and emerging programs, and it and helps bridge the technology gap between current technologies and future innovation. This, in turn, also helps small businesses commercialize their ideas while also fulfilling the warfighter’s often urgent needs and requirements.

“The transition of our controllable solid propulsion technology onto the NGI program is a textbook example of the value of SBIR projects. Both the MDA and the Air Force provided essential funding for our R&D that has resulted in the development of innovative and affordable technologies, changing the competitive landscape,” said Mike O’Brien, president of Valley Tech Systems. “This would not have been possible without the support of Lockheed Martin. As our commercialization and technology transition partner, Lockheed Martin mentored our small business on how to apply and integrate our emerging technology to weapon system requirements, which has been a key to this SBIR success.”

“I’m proud of the relationships with these small business partners, and the tremendous  work already accomplished in the SBIR/STTR programs to move NGI forward,” Reeves stated. “Here, we’re seeing the government investment in these enabling technologies pay off for the warfighter.”

At Lockheed Martin, your mission is ours. Small business remains a vital source of strength for Lockheed Martin and our government customers. It’s through close collaboration between our teams and small businesses that we are the global leader in supporting our customers' defense missions, strengthening security and advancing scientific discovery.

For more on how small businesses can get involved with Lockheed Martin, click here.