WASHINGTON (TheStreet) -- The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency birthed the Internet and funds whiz-bang flying-object projects such as the Northrop Grumman (Stock Quote: NOC) Switchblade and the Boeing (Stock Quote: BA) X-37.
But DARPA, as the Department of Defense unit is known, also supports entrepreneurs and small businesses through its Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs. (STTR involves cooperative projects involving both a small business and a research institution, such as a university or a federally funded organization like the Lockheed Martin Energy Research Corp.)
For 2009, DARPA set aside $70 million for SBIR and $8 million for STTR programs, and funding for next year is expected to be about the same. DARPA defines an eligible small business as "a business having no more than 500 employees (including all affiliates), which is operated in the United States, and at least 51 percent-owned by a U.S. citizen or permanent resident alien."
There are three SBIR and two STTR opportunities posted annually, each comprising a series of topics for small businesses to tackle, in the form of a Broad Agency Announcement (BAA). A BAA differs from requests for proposals (RFPs), which large companies often post. While an RFP usually invites suppliers to submit proposals for a specific product or service, a BAA asks small businesses to present proposals with a general objective.
The most recent DARPA BAA, which closed in September, included a call for applicants to "develop and demonstrate novel approaches for inoculating Warfighters against psychological stress injuries resulting from exposure to military combat operations." That is, pre-traumatic inoculation against post-traumatic stress disorder.