GSA wants to marry shared services and innovation in SBIR pilot

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If successful, the General Services Administration’s new innovation pilot will kill two very desired birds with one stone: bringing innovative upstarts into business with the government and promoting shared services to channel them enterprisewide.

Agency officials said Monday they hope to utilize the new Small Business Innovation Research Phase III pilot to give agencies the edge on new technologies by selling them through GSA’s established acquisition arms.

“GSA has been putting a lot of focus lately on pushing forward with some key innovation acquisition practices and strategies, while at the same time, building in a set of guardrails to make sure that we are innovative, but with potential controls,” said Jeff Koses, GSA senior procurement executive.

The agency debuted the pilot last week, which focuses the commercialization phase of the Small Business Administration’s SBIR program that provides research and development grants to small businesses pursuing new tech. The SBIR program awards three tiers of R&D funding — provided by the Department of Defense and 12 other member agencies and channeled through SBA to small innovative companies — running from the basic research phase through bringing viable solutions to market in Phase III.

The new pilot will use the Great Lakes Region of GSA’s Office of Assisted Acquisition Services (AAS) and its Federal Systems Integration and Management, or FEDSIM, program to assist those companies in pursuing funding from the private sector, or from the member agencies, to promote commercialization.

Because AAS and FEDSIM specialize in custom acquisition support services, SBIR member agencies asked GSA to design a pilot using its dedicated procurement resources to focus on the commercialization process.

But the move also provides GSA the opportunity to serve as a shared service provider for the member agencies, using AAS and FEDSIM to design the acquisition structures for any commercialized solutions and potentially scale them governmentwide if the pilot is successful.

“Many of those agencies lack a dedicated contracting shop that can support Phase III SBIR contracts,” said Mark Lee, the Federal Acquisition Service’s assistant commissioner of policy and compliance. “Having AAS in that position to be able to report these contracts on behalf of those agencies sets up a dedicated support area. They act as a shared service offering across government. Currently, there isn’t a shared service offering that provides assisted acquisition for consumer contracts, so this would be setting up that capability.”

SBIR agencies looking to use the pilot would still pay the standard AAS or FEDSIM fees, which are broken down by a sliding percentage of the total project value.

The pilot will serve to inform GSA on the best practices for both facilitating commercialization and how broadly to scale it. But most importantly, Lee said it provides the government with a window to procure cutting-edge technology at some of its earliest iterations.

“We see a unique opportunity working with the SBIR contractors through the production phase, and as they are moving through commercialization, to establish a relationship with the company and eventually make that available in a broader sense across the federal marketplace,” he said. “It’s really getting in early as the technology is being developed and be able to broaden the access across the federal marketplace. It fits nicely into GSA’s role of working with partner companies.”

The pilot is scheduled to run through fiscal 2019.

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FEDSIM, General Services Administration (GSA), Innovation, Jeff Koses, SBIR, small business
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