WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio – Everyone has ideas. Many people came up with an idea for a new product or technology only to get rejected or neglected. Sometimes we later discover that others had the same idea but were able to present it to the right people, which resulted in their product being on the market and not ours.
Ideas are relatively easy to come by; Inventions and innovations are more difficult. It takes knowledge, time, money and effort to refine an idea into a workable solution, even on paper. There are daunting tasks and significant obstacles in the way of those who strive to innovate. Fulfilling these tasks and overcoming the obstacles usually requires careful planning and the input of others.
The Department of the Air Force recognizes that innovative ideas often come from small businesses, industry, academia, or even a project in your neighbor’s garage that can help resolve issues that the department has identified. In April 2019, the Air Force announced its Science and Technology 2030 Strategy, which shows a path for the US Air Force’s science and technology ecosystem to rapidly develop combat capabilities. By expanding and strengthening our partnerships and leveraging the innovation networks within industry, small businesses, colleges and government laboratories, the department strives to provide an effective connection service that ensures that more outside innovation has a transformative impact on the Air Force and Space Force. On behalf of the department, the Air Force Research Laboratory, as a laboratory that supports two services, developed the Front Door of the Air and Space Forces Science & Technology (S&T) to connect potential partners with S&T experts and opportunities.
The partnership or connection with the science and technology company DAF can be challenging due to its structure and the different platforms of engagement. The Air Force and Space Force Tech Connect website was created to address this issue and encourage S&T ecosystem awareness, learning, engagement, and unsolicited idea submission. The website provides access to current S&T opportunities, S&T events and other S&T corporate connectors. It also provides innovators with a portal where they can share their ideas and skills with an AFRL subject matter expert for potential feedback, collaborations and opportunities. With a nationwide scope to invite and promote breakthrough ideas and technologies that could come from anywhere and from anyone that can ultimately benefit the war fighter, the long-term goal of S&T Front Door is to keep the science and technology ecosystem engaged extend the AFRL beyond to include more mission-oriented organizations and organizations from the Department of Defense’s larger science and technology network.
As another partner company of S&T and also part of the AFRL team, AFWERX expands technology, talent and transition partnerships for fast and affordable commercial and military capabilities through three measures: AFVentures, Spark and Prime. AFVentures, AFWERX’s commercial investment arm for the Air Force, creates easy avenues for commercial innovators and private equity investments to help the Department of the Air Force solve problems. Spark connects Fliers and Guardians with commercial innovators, while Prime is about accelerating emerging commercial markets through military missions and stocks. Both Tech Connect and AFWERX are committed to exploring viable solutions and partnerships to further empower our aerospace forces and make connecting potential partners with S&T experts and opportunities easier than before.
“The National Defense Strategy predicts a highly competitive future battle with complex threats,” said Maj. Gen. Heather Pringle, AFRL commander. “Peer competitors are trying to overtake the United States as a science and technology superpower. The global retail sector is exceeding our investments in S&T and is exploding with innovative technologies. Nevertheless, we keep an eye on the upcoming challenges. “
“Given the complexity of this evolving landscape, we are accelerating change in line with the Air Force Chief of Staff’s responsibility to us. We accept reasonable levels of risk in innovation and experimentation, as requested by the head of space operations. Above all, we recognize that technological superiority is necessary to meet these challenges. By expanding our presence and creating more visible and convenient virtual front doors, we are cultivating a global research ecosystem from basic to applied research that drives the pace of technology and competition in the agile search for innovative solutions for warfighters and stakeholders alike. ” She said.
How it works
The Air Force and Space Force Tech Connect team, currently made up of subject matter experts from the AFRL technology directorates, the Small Business Innovation Research / Small Business Technology Transfer program, Strategic Development Planning and Experimentation Office, Transformational Capabilities Office and AFWERX, reviews and connects quality , relevant submissions with S&T subject matter experts and S&T opportunities. The team provides feedback and, if relevant, establishes a dialogue with interested Air Force S&T programs.
“By leveraging S&T advances in government, university and industrial laboratories, AFRL can further drive innovation towards transformative impact within the Air Force division. For those submitting an idea through Air Force and Space Force Tech Connect, they can expect confirmation that their idea has been received by AFRL and that feedback on their idea will be timely from an Air Force subject matter expert, ”said Elizabeth Escamilla, Head of Front Door at Science & Technology.
If you are an innovator with great ideas and interested in working with the Air Force division on scientific and technological innovation and development, the Air Force and Space Force Tech Connect team wants to hear from you! To share your ideas, look for the lightbulb icon afresearchlab.com or afrl.af.mil.