Two Hawaii Firms Honored at the White House for Innovation

SBA recognizes Makai Ocean Engineering and Referentia Systems
Release Date: 
Tuesday, January 17, 2017
Release Number: 
HDO 17-02
Advisory Date: 
Tuesday, January 17, 2017
Jane Sawyer

Honolulu - When the U.S. Small Business Administration presented the prestigious Tibbetts Awards to 37 deserving small businesses during a White House ceremony on January 10, 2017, Hawaii’s Makai Ocean Engineering of Kailua and Referentia Systems of Honolulu were named among the winners.

“Today we celebrate and honor the important technological advances pioneered by these small high-tech firms” said SBA Administrator Maria Contreras Sweet. “These innovators are creating jobs and building new industries while helping to address many of the nation’s most pressing challenges.” 

The Tibbetts Award honors the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) /Small Technology Transfer (STTR) participants that have created significant economic or social impact through the use of SBIR/STTR funding and are considered the best from among thousands of firms currently in the program.

Makai Ocean Engineering is a diversified ocean engineering company focused on providing design and development services and innovative solutions to leading industrial, commercial and government clients.  Its work with Navy SBIRs led to commercial successes through a patented technology that is the #1 subsea cable installation software in the world, a fast, cost-effective method to lay undersea cable, and an Ocean Thermal Energy Conservation technology.

Referentia Systems is a leader in the development of critical infrastructure solutions in cyber security, e-business operations, utility smart grid, healthcare information exchange and aircraft maintenance.  By leveraging SBIR grants, the small business has commercialized its technologies with more than 650 enterprise customers.  Referentia, a graduate of SBA’s 8(a) Business development program with over 100 employees, also maintains strong relationships with military in Hawaii to understand and address the critical needs of today’s soldiers through technology innovation.

The award is named in honor of the late Roland Tibbetts, who was instrumental in establishing the SBIR/STTR programs. Awardees were recognized for their critical roles in research and development and for successfully driving innovation and creating new jobs through the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs.   The SBIR/STTR programs represent the nation's largest source of early stage research and development funding for small businesses. For more information, go to

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