Accelerating Hardware Development

We accelerate the development of dual-use hardware technologies critical to our national security and economic competitiveness.

NSIC Header image

We help you get to market faster.

National Security Innovation Capital (NSIC) is a new DoD initiative that enables dual-use hardware startups to advance key milestones in their product development by addressing the shortfall of private investment from trusted sources. We award Other Transaction (OT) agreements to accelerate your productization efforts.

We focus our funding on critical technologies.

NSIC is focused on next-generation hardware technologies for application to connected mobile and edge systems that support distributed operations in land, sea, air, and space domains. Particular interest is in dual-use technologies and solutions that offer significant performance improvements; realize low size, weight, power, and cost; improve safety, support secure supply chains, adapt to austere environments, are resilient to full-spectrum threats, and enable scalable deployment.

Who is eligible to work with us?

NSIC seeks to engage domestic startups that are developing dual-use hardware products with both commercial and defense applications. Startups should be early stage (at least proof of concept-TRL3 or higher, at angel or seed stage). If your startup is earlier stage (has not at least achieved TRL3) or is later stage (beyond angel or seed), please refrain from applying to NSIC at this time.

Our process is straightforward.

NSIC’s topics of interest are open for continuous evaluation through our Commercial Acceleration Opportunity (CAO) process, which means you can submit a pitch at any time. We seek to quickly evaluate pitches as they are submitted and award Other Transaction (OT) agreements efficiently.

If you are interested in working with us, here is what to expect:

process 1

Pitch Submission You submit a pitch relative to one of our technologies of interest.

process 2

Pitch Session If selected, you will be invited to a live pitch session.

process 3

Proposal Request We evaluate your pitch internally and, if selected, you will receive a proposal request.

process 4

Contract Negotiation We document and negotiate the details of a formal contract and award together.

process 5

Project Execution Get funded and start your development!

What's in a pitch?

NSIC requires companies to align their proposal with one of our topics of interest, to fill out a brief form, and to submit a pitch deck no longer than 20 slides.

Be sure to read the Commercial Acceleration Opportunity (CAO) document thoroughly prior to creating and submitting your pitch deck. At minimum, include the following information, along with any other details, that demonstrate your keys to - and understanding of - success:

  • Specific NSIC request and use of funds

  • Target end-user problem(s) and sizing of need(s)

  • Commercial and defense applications

  • Technology differentiation vs. competitors and supporting data

  • Current stage of development and related IP

  • Preliminary traction

  • High-level product development plan

  • High-level business plan including detailed go-to-market strategy

  • Potential risks and mitigations

  • Investor funding and sources

  • Technical and management staff and backgrounds

  • Assertion as a nontraditional defense contractor

  • Company name and contact information

  • Date of submittal

  • Financing needs and fundraising roadmap

Get Started

Frequently Asked Questions

If your startup is incorporated in the United States, and you’re developing hardware products, you may apply for NSIC funding. Startups incorporated in an allied country that have operations in the United States where work can be performed will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

We expect awards will range between $500K and $3M. Performance periods will range between 12-18 months.

If selected, your company will be awarded a fixed-price OT contract with NSIC under the OT Authority (10 U.S.C. Title §2371b) granted to the Defense Innovation Unit (DIU).

NSIC funding is primarily targeted towards hardware-based products and their associated technologies. Software-oriented aspects may be part of the product design, test, operation, and support, but it should not be the primary focus of the development you expect to be funded by NSIC. Such hardware-based products can be sold stand-alone or as the basis of a service or solution.

You may combine NSIC funds with other Government funding and private sources as long as they are all U.S.-based public or private sources, and explicitly highlighted in your pitch to NSIC.

We expect only one company to submit each proposal. Any and all collaborations you have and seek to utilize with other partners should be clearly identified in your pitch to NSIC.

The contract you sign with NSIC will outline specific milestones and reporting requirements. If you are funded, expect NSIC to serve as an external stakeholder to your project management team.

IP rights will be determined and negotiated as part of the contracting process. The completed prototype is yours to keep. A final report will be due to NSIC, describing the prototype development and the results of agreed-upon tests that demonstrate the project has met its goals.

NSIC reports to DIU leadership and operates distinctly from its sister organizations, National Security Innovation Network, and core DIU. NSIC is focused specifically on hardware technologies in the early stages of development or pre-production (e.g. TRL 3 or higher). Companies may submit pitches related to our technologies of interest at any time and NSIC continuously evaluates submissions for awards. NSIC projects are designed to help companies further develop their technologies and reach new product development milestones. Please be aware that submitting a pitch to NSIC does not automatically make your company eligible for an award with DIU nor vice versa.

Funding for FY23 has has been completely obligated; however, we are currently accepting and evaluating proposals for FY24.

The following are useful tips to consider:

  • Organize and customize your pitch deck in a manner that addresses all the criteria of interest to NSIC. Do not submit a generic VC presentation.

  • Tailor your submission for the readers (technology/engineering generalists + business executives).

  • Describe separately the proposed commercial and defense use cases that your prototype can address (problem-solution fit). Clearly state the value proposition and how it will be superior to current and pending solutions.

  • Identify the area(s) of technical differentiation (qualitative and quantitative) and compare them against existing and potential competitors.

  • Provide detailed market opportunity sizing for directly relevant commercial market segments; for example estimate TAM, SAM and SOM.

  • Describe and explain your targeting criteria for early customers. Note status of any current discussions.

  • Provide a view of the execution risks you may encounter, their likelihood and impact, and what strategies will be employed to manage them.

  • Request a preferred amount of funding, but feel free to provide one or two alternatives based on different levels of prototype development, as options for consideration.

  • Provide enough information on qualifications and experience (technical, domain, startup, military) of key staff members and advisors to enable evaluation of their ability to make the business successful.

  • Balance the level of detail with the need to communicate key points clearly - presentation and content both matter.

No. A company may only submit one proposal to one ToI for a specific project during any given fiscal year (Oct. 1 to Sept. 30). This does not include subsequent submissions that incorporate feedback provided to a rejected proposal.  Companies should decide on the ToI which most closely aligns with the core of its business plan and focus its efforts on submitting one quality proposal under that ToI only. Submitting multiple proposals under the same or different ToIs does not improve the chances of a successful submission and will result in automatic rejection of all proposals. NSIC does not have topic quotas and if it believes that a proposal covers multiple ToIs, it is able to evaluate your proposal accordingly. Additionally, in rare cases, NSIC may internally change the ToI associated with a proposal during processing; however, that decision will not impact its evaluation.

If absolutely necessary, a company may make one (1) update within 24 hours of its original submission as long as it uses the Notes field in the submission form to clearly indicate the reason for submitting an updated proposal. Any update submitted after that time window or missing an entry in the Notes field, or any successive updates, will be automatically rejected, and the original proposal that was submitted will be the one that’s evaluated.

NSIC expects all received proposals to closely align with the published topics (and subtopics) of interest. Beyond that, sufficient flexibility is left to allow for innovative submissions. However, sometimes proposals are received in categories that are outside the scope of NSIC’s current interests or mission, including the following:

  • Grid solutions

  • Lithium-ion battery technology

  • Rare earth materials processing

  • Biochemical sensors (one exception: CBRN)

  • Medical systems

  • Cybersecurity

  • Crypto/blockchain

  • XR/wearables

  • Mobile/cloud apps

  • Fundamental science

  • Contract RDT&E

  • Defense-only applications

If any of those categories are the primary focus of your company’s product architecture, development activity or business plan, you are encouraged to pursue alternative funding opportunities within the DoD, other federal government agencies or the private sector. NSIC will automatically reject all submissions in the above categories.

In that particular case, NSIC expects the company to resubmit its proposal within 2 weeks after receiving the evaluation decision. If that period expires and no resubmission has been received, NSIC will assume the company is not interested in resubmitting and and will be unlikely to review any resubmission beyond that time frame.

If the evaluation decision did not explicitly indicate an opportunity for the company to resubmit its proposal, it indicates that NSIC is not interested in pursuing that specific plan. Hence, a resubmission, while technically possible, is unlikely to result in a different outcome.

OSC and NSIC are complementary organizations and are working together. OSC focuses on encouraging private sector investors to focus on a wide range of technologies of importance to DoD through the SBIC program, and, eventually, loan guarantees. NSIC directly funds selected early-stage companies developing dual-use products in specific topics of interest.