Wednesday, March 9, 2011

SBIR Program Shows Results

The Army’s SBIR program is designed to provide high tech businesses the opportunity to propose innovative research and development solutions. Each year, the Army SBIR office allocates over 200 topics to the laboratories. In response to these SBIR topics, small businesses submit over 3000 proposals each year resulting in more than 600 Phase I and Phase II awards valued at $250 million going to small businesses.

Many of the Phase II SBIR projects sometimes move on to become part of the “Commercialization Pilot Program” (CPP). The CPP managed by MILCOM Venture Partners was set up to accelerate the transition of SBIR technology, products, and services to Phase III projects. CPP helps with business and transition plans and helps to match technology with potential government or industry customers. It is anticipated that up to 25 participants will take part in CPP in 2011.

As a result of the CPP, Ascension Technology Corporation located in Vermont was able to expand the use of robotics in surgical procedures. The problem is that physicians need to know where surgical instruments are located within the human body. Ascension was able to develop micro sensors able to track the tip of flexible endoscopes, catheters, probes, and other instruments. By using 3D tracking, instruments can be guided, collisions can be avoided, and systems can be calibrated.

With DARPA providing 20 percent of the funding, the company was able to miniaturize magnetic field sensors from 5mm to 1.8mm, and develop a flat transmitter that when placed under the patient can screen out medals.

By combing these advances with the company’s pulsed DC magnetic technology, the company has produced a commercial medical system called “3D Guidance”. It simultaneously tracks up to eight low-cost, disposable sensors, measures the position and orientation of each sensor in the patient, and then generates data for 3D visualization.

“3D Guidance” is being evaluated by other medical device manufacturers for possible incorporation into minimally invasive and image-guided products. For military applications, DARPA is planning to incorporate 3D tracking technology into a large robotics-based medical systems being developed to triage and treat injured soldiers on the battlefield.

For more information, email Jack Scully at or go to the web site at For more general details on the SBIR program, go to