FarSounder receives national SBA Tibbetts Award for innovation

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Lori Stabile

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WARWICK – FarSounder Inc. has received a 2015 Tibbetts Award from the U.S. Small Business Administration.

The high-tech marine electronics manufacturer was among 23 small businesses and six individuals and three supporting organizations recognized for their “exemplary roles” in the Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer programs, according to a news release from the SBA.

Cheryl M. Zimmerman, CEO of FarSounder, said they were “pleasantly surprised” to find out the company, which sells navigation obstacle avoidance systems, received a Tibbetts Award. She said her team has worked hard over the years and is pleased to see that the federal government has recognized how “unique and how important our technology is.”

“We’ve been well-known in Europe and other parts of the globe. We’re finally being recognized in the U.S., where we feel we have a lot to offer to help the economy and help the safety of the commercial fleets,” Zimmerman said.

FarSounder’s technology helps vessels of all kinds – from cruise ships to commercial ships – avoid accidents by using a 3D acoustic array that is sent out ahead of the vessel. She described it as an “environmentally-friendly sound” that reflects off of different obstacles or shallow areas to gather data and offer a “higher level of safety.”

“There are many transient obstacles not on any charts,” Zimmerman said, adding icebergs and shipping containers are just a few examples of the underwater hazards. “We can help them see obstacles in shallow areas before they come into contact.”

Seafarers can view the objects on a computer screen, she said. The company has been operating since 2001, Zimmerman said, noting Narragansett Bay has been a “wonderful laboratory for us.”

The award winners will be honored in Washington, D.C., on June 15 during a White House ceremony featuring astronaut Cady Coleman as the keynote speaker. Tibbetts awardees also will be honored at the June 16 kickoff of the National SBIR/STTR conference.

“I am so looking forward to celebrating these entrepreneurs who are driving U.S. innovation in diverse and amazing ways across the country,” Javier Saade, SBA associate administrator for the Office of Investment and Innovation, said in a statement. “It is thrilling to be in the company of these visionaries developing and commercializing technologies that strengthen our nation’s defense, improve the health of our citizens and enhance education.”

Named for the late Roland Tibbetts, also known as the “father” of the SBIR/STTR programs, the annual awards are presented to leaders from all over the United States who have been instrumental in supporting the success of the programs and/or utilizing SBIR/STTR investment to develop an idea into a product or service that benefits the federal government’s research and development needs, the general public’s well-being and the nation’s economy through technological innovation and the creation of high quality jobs – sometimes in newly created industries, according to the SBA.