How Arlington Builds a Better Robot... and Fast Tracks the Process

It’s no secret that Arlington, VA is the place to be when creating the products of the future. After all, some of today’s most well-known technology inventions, from the Internet to GPS to voice recognition technology, were all born here. But now, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, better known as DARPA and the agency responsible for these and other technologies, are looking for the individuals to create their next big thing – that is, robots.  And they’re reaching out to Arlington’s tech entrepreneurs to talk about how to take innovative ideas in the robotics field from concept to reality.

DARPA Program Manager Mark Micire joined TandemNSI’s Jonathan Aberman and BIT Systems’ Dan Rolph for a special panel on the robotics industry and just how entrepreneurs in the Arlington area can work with DARPA and other federal agencies to secure funding to take innovative ideas in the field and make them tangible. The event was held at TechShop’s Arlington location, which has been a central location for the creation of prototypes for entrepreneurs.

But innovators and panelists in attendance agree - the process of doing business with DARPA or other federal agencies isn’t always easy. In fact, some are turned off from working with the agencies completely simply because of the paperwork and red tape involved.  To alleviate that, DARPA’s starting a Robotics Fast Track Program (RFT), designed to empower new and small businesses in the robotics sector without requiring that they first raise millions in capital to be considered serious players. The new program is designed for non-traditional performers, a broad category that refers to seed-stage startups as well as companies that don't typically provide services to the government. Mindful of the needs of these companies, the proposal-to-contract turnaround time will be only 60 days – a much shorter time period than previous “traditional” federal contracts.  Projects that are selected can receive up to $150,000 in soft-limit funding depending on the scope of the proposal.

It’s a new and innovative way for tech entrepreneurs to get their ideas in front of, and potentially generate business with, federal project managers. It’s just the latest in how Arlington agencies and innovators are working together.

Applications and more information can be found at

Topic: BIG Update
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