The Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity has opened up its annual broad agency announcement calling for submissions of the most bleeding-edge technologies and ideas the private sector has to offer.

The yearly IARPA Wide Research BAA looks for new research proposals in areas the program office has yet to explore — what IARPA calls "seedlings."

Download: IARPA Wide Research BAA

"Seedlings are typically nine- to 12-month research efforts intended to 'take an idea from disbelief to doubt,'" according to the organization's website. "Or rather, to help to determine whether a full research program — lasting three to five years — is warranted."

While contracts are the main mechanism, IARPA contracting officers have "the right to negotiate other appropriate award instruments," including grants and cooperative agreements, according to the solicitation.

IARPA is open to a wide range of proposals — hence the name "Wide Research BAA" — but also offered a few topics of particular interest as a guide for this year's submissions.

Anticipatory Intelligence

Anticipatory intelligence focuses on characterizing and reducing uncertainty by providing decision makers with timely and accurate forecasts of significant global events. This BAA solicits research that explores or demonstrates the feasibility of revolutionary concepts that may deliver real-time indications and warning, in context, to support rapid, nuanced understanding by intelligence consumers.


Analysis focuses on maximizing insights from the massive, disparate, unreliable and dynamic data that are — or could be — available to analysts, in a timely manner. IARPA is pursuing new sources of information from existing and novel data and developing innovative techniques that can be utilized in the processes of analysis. Analysis research efforts are diverse across technical disciplines but have the following common features: (a) they create technologies that can earn the trust of the analyst user by providing the reasoning for results; and (b) they address data uncertainty and provenance explicitly.


Research in operations focuses on the IC's ability to operate freely and effectively in an often hostile and increasingly interdependent and resource-constrained environment. While some of our challenges stem from adversary activity, others emerge coincidentally with changes in technology or business practices. Research efforts are most often not application-specific but concentrate instead on creating the foundations of a powerful and robust infrastructure for the IC that can maintain its integrity over time. This BAA solicits research that explores or demonstrates the feasibility of revolutionary concepts in computation, trust establishment and maintenance and detecting and deflecting hostile intent.


The goal of collections research is to dramatically improve the value of collected data from all sources by developing new sensor and transmission technologies, new collection techniques that more precisely target desired information and means for collecting information from previously inaccessible sources. In addition, IARPA pursues new mechanisms for combining information gathered from multiple sources to enhance the quality, reliability and utility of collected information.

The full text of the solicitation goes into greater detail on each of the four areas of interest, including specific research topics IARPA would like to see explored.

"Offerors should demonstrate that their proposed effort has the potential to make revolutionary — rather than incremental — improvements to intelligence capabilities," according to the solicitation. "Research that primarily results in evolutionary improvement to the existing state of practice is specifically excluded."

The funding opportunity is open to anyone — persons or organizations — in the private sector, however federal agencies and federally-funded programs are not eligible.

The BAA opened on May 3 and will run through May 2, 2017. The previous Wide Research BAA is set to expire on May 10.

Aaron Boyd is an awarding-winning journalist currently serving as editor of Federal Times — a Washington, D.C. institution covering federal workforce and contracting for more than 50 years — and Fifth Domain — a news and information hub focused on cybersecurity and cyberwar from a civilian, military and international perspective.

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