Pathway to Successful Inclusion of Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs) in the Johnson Space Center (JSC) Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) / SBIR Technology Transfer (STTR) Program



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2023 International Conference on Environmental Systems


In 2015, the authors began an outreach plan to Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs), particularly targeting Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs), which were overlooked at that time. Since then, the Johnson Space Center (JSC) Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) team has visited 15 TCUs across 10 states and 11 reservations. This outreach is the most extensive of its kind within the agency. Two separate papers have been written about the trajectory and impact of that outreach on the SBIR Technology Transfer (STTR) program, where colleges and universities that partner with small businesses compete for Federal research dollars. In the 2021 STTR Solicitation, Navajo Tech University (NTU) became the first TCU in the history of the NASA SBIR program to receive an STTR Phase I award. In 2022, they then became the first TCU to receive a Phase II award, which totals $750,000 combined for the college and the partner and has a 2-year lifecycle. This paper will elaborate on the history of JSC�s outreach activities, the strategies utilized (and focusing on the benefits of the SBIR program to reservations), and the lessons learned that led to the more productive TCU engagement and the contract award. The paper will also show how we and NASA SBIR modified presentations to adjust to JSC outreach experiences. The paper will recommend how other Federal programs can engage these communities in STEM contracts. These lessons learned and strategies will benefit companies and Government agencies who want to implement similar outreach and public engagement plans within their programs.


Doug Goodman, Jacobs Technology, USA
Kathryn Packard, NASA Johnson Space Center(JSC), USA
James Whittington, Jacobs Technology, USA
ICES307: Collaboration, Education Outreach, and Public Engagement
The 52nd International Conference on Environmental Systems was held in Calgary, Canada, on 16 July 2023 through 20 July 2023.


outreach, collaboration, public engagement, Tribal Colleges and Universities, TCUs, SBIR, STTR, Small Business Tech Transfer, Small Business Innovation Research