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NEWS | Dec. 20, 2023

NUWC Division Newport, NAVSEA representatives meet with small businesses to discuss technology needs

By NUWC Division Newport Public Affairs

Representatives from the Naval Undersea Warfare Center (NUWC) Division Newport and the Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) recently met face-to-face with small technology business owners to discuss how the two can work together by utilizing the U.S. Navy’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs.

The event, hosted by SENEDIA, the Alliance for Defense, Tech, Talent and Innovation, was held at Innovate Newport in Rhode Island on Dec. 13, with roughly a dozen companies represented. Also in attendance were officials from Rhode Island Commerce, the Rhode Island-based Polaris Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) and the Massachusetts MEP.

Guest speakers included Julie Kallfelz, a member of the Technology Partnership Office at NUWC Division Newport and director of the Northeast Tech Bridge, and Richard McNamara, former NAVSEA executive director, who provided a thorough overview of the two programs. McNamara currently performs outreach for the programs under Jason Schroepfer, the SBIR/STTR program manager for NAVSEA.

Kallfelz explained that doing business with the Navy can be complicated, and the SBIR and STTR programs are ways to potentially eliminate some of that friction.

“Our objective in the Technology Partnership Office (TPO) is to help industry partner more easily with the Navy and the Department of Defense,” she said. “The TPO collectively helps companies large and small, but we really focus on small to help navigate the different tools available to industry to help you — SBIRs are one.”

Powered by the Small Business Administration and dubbed “America’s Seed Fund,” the highly competitive SBIR and STTR programs, established in 1982 and 1992, respectively, encourage domestic small businesses to engage in federal research or research and development, with the potential for commercialization.

“By including qualified small businesses in the nation’s research and development field, high-tech innovation is stimulated, and the United States gains entrepreneurial spirit as it meets specific research and development goals,” the SBIR website states.

The Navy posted its first SBIR and STTR topics — areas that could potentially seal technological gaps — for fiscal year (FY) 2024 on Nov. 29, with the application period running from Jan. 3 through Feb. 7. There are a total 95 topics for the two programs (71 SBIR topics and 24 STTR topics), and of those, 34 fall under the NAVSEA umbrella. For more information, visit

Kallfelz told the business owners the topics currently being offered overlap with many of Division Newport’s 10 science and technology focus areas, which is “how we bucket our work.” She placed an emphasis on advanced communications, marine materials and material behavior, unmanned undersea vehicles and undersea weapons, and undersea warfare (USW) machine learning/artificial intelligence and data science. 

“There are number of SBIR topics that are of great interest to Newport and our sister warfare centers,” Kallfelz said.

After the business owners heard from a number of Program Executive Office (PEO) representatives across the NAVSEA enterprise via a virtual meeting, McNamara provide details about the SBIR and STTR programs, which are broken down in three phases that come with increased funding in each step:

Phase I: This is a feasibility study to determine the scientific or technical merit of an idea or technology that may provide a solution to the Department of the Navy’s need or requirement.

Phase II: If the Phase I effort is successful, the firm may compete for Phase II funding, which is a substantial research and development effort. 

Phase III: This is the goal of most SBIR projects. Although no government SBIR funds are involved, Phase III funding can come from the government and/or private sector. The target is to transition a company’s SBIR effort into products, tools or services that benefit the Navy acquisition community. 

In FY 2022, the Navy broke the $1 billion mark in Phase III funding, obligating $1.068 billion to 151 large and small businesses. More than 220 awards derived from, extended or completed efforts made under 215 prior SBIR/STTR topics. Every Navy systems command benefitted from SBIR/STTR technology, especially NAVSEA and NAVAIR, McNamara said.

“There’s pretty good money out there to spread around,” he said.

Division Newport has made a commitment to increasing small business participation and overall competition in its acquisitions. The warfare center fosters networking and prime and subcontractor relationships while striving to meet small business and socio-economic goals by embracing the philosophy “Think Small Business First.”

A thorough, top-to-bottom process, from senior leadership down, demonstrates these efforts are making a difference, as performance metrics continually tilt in a positive direction. For example, in FY 2023, $354 million of $775 million (45.6%) was contributed to small business from the total eligible small business obligations. In FY 2022, those figures were $299 million of $708 million (42.2%).

This success can be partly attributed to the 25-plus outreach events held throughout the year that benefited Division Newport and industry. The Office of Small Business Programs team also developed a “Small Business Desk Guide” as a resource for small business professionals, contracting personnel and technical personnel alike.

A first of its kind, this resource provides a quick-start guide to understanding small business terminology, small business policies and provides step-by-step instructions on using prominent small business tools. The guide was reviewed by subject matter experts across the Navy and will be rolled out in 2024.

“Our goal is to try to support you in doing business with the Navy,” Kallfelz said. “It can be complicated, but that’s what we’re here for.”

For more information on how the Northeast Tech Bridge can assist small businesses, email:

NUWC Newport is the oldest warfare center in the country, tracing its heritage to the Naval Torpedo Station established on Goat Island in Newport Harbor in 1869. Commanded by Capt. Chad Hennings, NUWC Newport maintains major detachments in West Palm Beach, Florida, and Andros Island in the Bahamas, as well as test facilities at Seneca Lake and Fisher's Island, New York, Leesburg, Florida, and Dodge Pond, Connecticut.

Join our team! NUWC Division Newport, one of the 20 largest employers in Rhode Island, employs a diverse, highly trained, educated, and skilled workforce. We are continuously looking for engineers, scientists, and other STEM professionals, as well as talented business, finance, logistics and other support experts who wish to be at the forefront of undersea research and development. Please connect with NUWC Division Newport Recruiting at this site-  and follow us on LinkedIn @NUWC-Newport and on Facebook @NUWCNewport.