Baton Rouge-based Bascom Hunter Technologies has been awarded a $4 million contract to develop wireless communication equipment for the U.S. Navy through the Small Business Innovation Research program.
The contract is an SBIR Phase III award. Bascom Hunter President Andrew McCandless says his company began working on the project several years ago when it was selected for the first and second phases of the SBIR contract. Phase III is the “pinnacle” of this work, he says, adding it is highly competitive selection process.
“The project is to help develop new solutions to deal with interference inside satellite communication equipment,” McCandless says.
Interference is one of the major challenges for satellite communications. Satellites send information using radio frequency waves, and each entity has its own channel to transmit data, McCandless says. Interference occurs when another source of radio waves enters the channel and interrupts the ability to transmit and receive data.
With the new contract, Bascom Hunter plans to expand its operations. The company has already hired four new employees, bringing its staff to 10 total, McCandless says, and he plans to hire an additional 12 or so employees soon.
The local tech firm, currently at the Louisiana Tech Park, is also moving into a bigger facility being developed at LSU’s Innovation Park.
SBIR is a competitive program that encourages small businesses to participate in federal research and development opportunities that could lead to commercialization, says Louisiana Technology Transfer Office Director Roy Keller. Phase III contracts are meant to help businesses pursue commercialization of projects resulting from Phase I and II R&D work.
Louisiana is a “historically underperforming” state when it comes to SBIR contracts, McCandless says. The state has received just 424 total awards, while others like Alabama have received more than 3,000, according to SBIR.
McCandless founded an SBIR Consortium in Louisiana to help educate the business community about federal funding opportunities and advocate for policy changes that could lead to more SBIR funding for the state in the future.
“We’re trying to promote the program,” McCandless says, “and we have seen an uptick.”