BOX 4-3First RF: Addressing New Defense Needs

FIRST RF Corporation was founded by Farzin Lalezari and Theresa Boone in 2003. Lalezari was born in Iran, and emigrated to the United States in 1971, while a high school student, following the imposition of a death sentence on his father, who was serving as Iran’s Minister of Education, by the Khomeini regime. Upon graduation, he joined Ball Aerospace, where he advanced to position of chief scientist and director of research.

At Ball, Lalezari’s research led to 25 patents, all assigned to the firm. Lalezari left to form FIRST RF because of disenchantment with the bureaucratization and technological stagnation of large firms, and their overemphasis on short-term profit measures designed to meet the requirements of stock market analysts.

FIRST RF’s core technology focus is advanced antennas and RF systems. Lalezari used the SBIR solicitation of topics to focus on a specific problem. In his view, one of the primary benefits of the SBIR program is that it is seen as forcing firms to “think out of the box,” while simultaneously providing innovators with access to users.

Lalezari reports writing about 12 SBIR proposals during the firm’s first year of operation. The firm received awards on seven of these proposals, a number described as a national record for a start-up company. In late 2003, it submitted a Phase I proposal for an Army-generated topic related to the detection of improvised explosive devices.

By the time its Phase I project was finished, the firm had delivered production prototypes for use by U.S. military forces in Iraq. In 2004, the firm entered a structured competition against 27 other firms, including major defense contractors such as Raytheon and BAE for volume production of IED countermeasure devices. It won the competition, receiving an initial $21.5 million contract from the Army, with delivery scheduled for December 2005.

This Army contract has been followed by several additional contracts with DoD prime contractors.

From: 4, Outcomes

Cover of An Assessment of the SBIR Program at the Department of Defense
An Assessment of the SBIR Program at the Department of Defense.
National Research Council (US) Committee for Capitalizing on Science, Technology, and Innovation: An Assessment of the Small Business Innovation Research Program, Policy and Global Affairs; Wessner CW, editor.
Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2009.
Copyright © 2009, National Academy of Sciences.

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