DARPA PMs use seedling programs to ‘acid test’ the riskiest pieces of a program idea

Seedlings are 3-9 month projects that cost $0.05M -> $1M and are designed to Move concepts from “disbelief ” to “mere doubt". This means The initial exploratory tranche of a DARPA program is approximately $1.5m.

DARPA PMs don’t need to ask permission to deploy money below the $1M mark. Asking permission to spend money is always for the sake of a third party. They don’t need to put out open calls because at the end of the day it’s not about finding a solution to a problem, it’s about verifying a hypothesis.

The idea for seedlings can either come from the Program Manager or from a researcher. Either way the ideas are part of a feedback loop (There are many tight feedback loops built into the ARPA model) between the PM and the research community. A large part of a DARPA program manager’s job is focused network building.


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