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DOD CTO Heidi Shyu Previews Biomanufacturing RFP, Highlights Funding Opportunities

Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering Heidi Shyu has previewed an upcoming request for proposals from the Pentagon, in support of the creation of a sustainable, safe and secure bioeconomy.

Shyu, a recipient of the 2024 Wash100 Award, gave the audience at the Potomac Officers Club’s 10th Annual Defense R&D Summit a glimpse of the RFP on Wednesday. The solicitation will invite industry to render plans for the Distributed Bioindustrial Manufacturing Investment program.

Bioindustrial manufacturing, Shyu said, bears a number of benefits and applications, including biofuel production for unmanned aerial vehicles. She additionally cited the use of dandelion flowers to extract rubber on a timeline of six months, rather than time-consuming and climate-dependent rubber plants, which can take seven years to grow.

Noting that our “highly unstable” geopolitical environment requires “focus and urgency” from the DOD’s tech efforts, Shyu went on to showcase a series of programs focused on “judiciously investing and scaling ideas that will provide technological advantage for decades to come.”

Shyu discussed the Rapid Defense Experimentation Reserve, or RDER program, which is intent on speeding up the maturation of technologies, from prototype to “validated military capabilities.” Compared to the traditional capability development process, RDER accelerates the timeline by two to four years, and “draws upon the strength of iterative feedback loops between warfighter and technologists throughout the testing and experimentation phase.”

She also stipulated that RDER puts emphasis on “mission engineering at the tactical edge.”

Interested in learning more about how the government and the military are working to meet the demands of speed and security at the tactical edge? Register to attend Potomac Officers Club’s Workloads at the Tactical Edge Forum, a Feb. 8 breakfast event that will feature Air Force Research Laboratory’s Dr. Mark Linderman and the CIA’s La’Naia Jones.

The Under Secretary singled out the Accelerate the Procurement and Fielding of Innovative Technologies, or APFIT, initiative, which has been running for two years and is a procurement fund for often smaller businesses with forward-thinking ideas.

With $100 million at its disposal in its first year and $150 million the second year, Shyu is still awaiting the DOD budget for FY2024 to be finalized. But she pointed to some of the triumphs of the program thus far: sensors that detect mines underwater; anti-jam antennas; vertical takeoff and landing unmanned aircraft systems; as well as unmanned surface vehicles and “deployable satellite communication terminals that enable connections to multiple commercial satellites.”

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