AFWERX presents to Joint Requirements Oversight Council at commercial-military partnership event

SpaceWERX launch drives AFWERX small business focus on universities and on-orbit capability

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio – On August 19, SpaceWERX will officially launch. The kickoff will include a virtual Space Force Pitch Day highlighting the key partnership between the Department of the Air Force and small businesses by awarding up to $34 million to innovative startups competing for Small Business Innovation Research Phase II contracts. At the launch, SpaceWERX will also announce key initiatives to jumpstart the fall campaign.To join the SpaceWERX ecosystem click here.

As a part of AFWERX, SpaceWERX will play a vital role in pursuing innovative technologies for the United States Space Force. The Department’s newest innovation arm will create platforms for space operators, lab engineers, and acquisition professionals to collaborate with the brightest minds in academia and industry pursuing novel solutions. Moreover, SpaceWERX will continue to leverage proven AFWERX tools such as the SBIR Open Topic, Challenge platform, STRATFI initiative, and Prime program.

This fall, AFWERX will jumpstart key SpaceWERX initiatives by offering a Phase I Open Topic Small Business Technology Transfer solicitation focused on space technologies. This effort will team small businesses with university researchers focused on space to simultaneously build the workforce and develop cutting edge space technologies. Open Topics allow companies and researchers to propose technology solutions they believe would benefit the warfighter even if the USAF or USSF has not issued a specific SBIR/STTR topic seeking a solution. The 2020 AFWERX AFVentures report shows the notable returns on investment using this approach as well as the ability of this program to bring in over one thousand new companies to work with the DAF.

Phase I SBIR/STTR contracts provide small businesses threshold funding values to develop concepts, test feasibility, and identify potential DAF customers. With Phase II agreements, companies with feasible concepts can receive additional funding for prototyping through research, development, test, and evaluation based on user needs. Beyond that, STRATFI/TACFI agreements help bridge the capability gap between Phase II efforts and Phase III scaling efforts, to facilitate delivery of strategic capabilities. Between the AFWERX Agility Prime and AFWERX AFVentures program synergies, small businesses were able to go from $50,000 contracts to more than $40 million contracts in one year.

In 2020, the AFWERX STRATFI program had 18 partner companies. This year, 161 capability packages were submitted requesting $421 million in SBIR/STTR funds. This request was leveraged against $440 million in non-SBIR government funds and $492 million in private investment. The STRATFI program just released its largest contract award in its history. This $60 million jointly funded effort with Hermeus Corporation will help accelerate hypersonic technology. The next solicitations for the STRATFI/TACFI program will open again in early 2022.

These tools will be key to Space Prime, officially scheduled to begin later this month. Space Prime will pursue a nascent technology sector that, if “primed” by SpaceWERX engagement, could advance U.S. national security and economic prosperity. Space Prime will utilize the STTR Open Topic process as one of many means to advance space technologies. Last year, the Agility Prime focused STTR achieved record participation and will provide a model for the Space Prime STTR solicitation.

“We’re particularly excited about Space Prime,” said Lt. Col. Walter McMillan, SpaceWERX Director. “Space Prime is our strong signal to academia, industry, investment, interagency, and international partners on a specific mission area where we aim to energize the space industrial base and develop on-orbit capability in an accelerated timeline. We are targeting operational capability in two to four years.”

“Like our inaugural Prime program, Agility Prime, Space Prime will use the full suite of our AFWERX tools to hone in on specific mission and technology areas to truly move the needle on delivering on-orbit capability,” said Lt. Col. Tom Meagher, AFWERX Prime lead.

Col. Nathan Diller, AFWERX director, stated, “By focusing the AFWERX team on space and universities, we expect to continue to deliver the highest returns on taxpayer investment in national security and small business innovation. This focus means AFWERX will not be participating in the broader SBIR/STTR 21.3/C solicitation cycle, but will return with many new innovations to the small business programs in early 2022.” Learn more about the Air Force SBIR/STTR program at https://www.afsbirsttr.af.mil/.

About AFWERX

AFWERX, as the innovation arm of the Department Air Force and a directorate of the Air Force Research Laboratory, transitions agile, affordable, and accelerated capabilities by teaming innovative technology developers with Airmen and Guardian talent. AFWERX has three key components: AFVentures, Spark, and Prime. AFVentures expands the defense industrial base for advanced technologies, Spark empowers Airmen and Guardian talent, and Prime drives transition to operational capability. By teaming across academia, industry, investment, interagency, and international partners, AFWERX expands technology, talent, and transition of innovative capabilities.

About SBIR/STTR

The SBIR program was established by Congress in 1982 to fund research and development (R&D) by small businesses of 500 or fewer employees. Eleven federal agencies participate in the program, including the Department of Defense.
The STTR program was established in 1992 to fund cooperative R&D projects with small businesses and non-profit U.S. research institutions, such as universities. Five federal agencies participate, including the Department of Defense. Both programs focus on projects and services with the potential to develop into a product for military or commercial sectors.

About AFRL

AFRL is the primary scientific research and development center for the Department of the Air Force. AFRL plays an integral role in leading the discovery, development, and integration of affordable warfighting technologies for our air, space, and cyberspace force. With a workforce of more than 11,000 across nine technology areas and 40 operations across the globe, AFRL provides a diverse portfolio of science and technology ranging from fundamental to advanced research and technology development. For more information, visit: www.afresearchlab.com.

eVTOL - Aircraft

The 355th Wing flies toward the future

DAVIS-MONTHAN AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. – The needs of the tomorrow’s Air Force must be met today, and the 355th Wing remains on the leading edge of this effort to ensure its continued ability to wield lethal, ready combat airpower anywhere, anytime.

Airmen from the 355th Wing, 621st Contingency Response Wing and AFWERX Agility Prime teamed up to move a LIFT Aircraft electronic vertical takeoff and landing aircraft using a military aircraft for the first time. The eVTOL vehicle was transported from Springfield, Ohio to Austin, Texas, March 23 – 24, 2021.

This effort was a proof of concept for the Air Force as the 355th Wing, the 621st Contingency Response Wing and other units across the force look to integrate the eVTOL technology into upcoming training. AFWERX and industry partners are working together to aggressively develop this to support the Department of Defense as it pursues further agile combat employment capabilities.

“We are working with industry and Air Force partners to continue developing this next-generation technology to eventually be able to do anything that a traditional aircraft can do,” said U.S. Air Force Maj. Brendan Gallagher, 563rd Rescue Group chief of weapons and tactics. “Due to the hard work and preparation of our loadmasters and the 571st Mobility Support Advisory Squadron, we were able to safely and effectively load the equipment onto the HC-130J.”

Loading this equipment onto the HC-130J for the first time was no simple task, however. Air Force cargo specialists and flight engineers at LIFT Aircraft worked together to figure out configuration the eVTOL would need to be placed in for safe travel, proving that they can be transported using relatively small military aircraft with minimal equipment.

“With it being new, unfamiliar equipment, we had to come with a lot of variants and contingencies,” said U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Joseph Wruck, 571st Mobility Support Advisory Squadron air transportation team sergeant. “Alongside the 79th Rescue Squadron, AFWERX and LIFT, we came up with a simple, safe and expedited way to load the aircraft with minimal specialized equipment by using the ramp system. The load took roughly 40 minutes, but we can get that down to 15 minutes in the future.”

The further integration and testing of this technology will ensure its employability in austere environments. In the future, operators expect this aircraft will be able to support a variety of missions, including personnel recovery and initial airfield assessment.

“The idea and execution of moving [the aircraft] in a more deployable state is a great validation of the design and how it was built,” said Jace McCown, LIFT Aircraft flight development engineer and chief pilot. “We took the aircraft from just over 15 feet to just under eight. We are also working to get the time from unloading it off the aircraft to ready to fly down under two hours.”

As Airmen and industry partners look toward the future of innovation with this technology, AFWERX continues pushing it into new environments to test its capabilities.

“This load exercise came on the heels of major flight testing in Springfield, and we have more testing coming up in Austin and the Bushwhacker exercise [the 355th Wing’s agile combat employment exercise] in May,” said James Bieryla, AFWERX Prime division chief.

Bushwhacker is the 355th Wing’s ongoing series of agile combat employment exercises. The next iteration is scheduled this summer and will be the first time AFWERX eVTOL vehicles are integrated into dynamic military exercise scenarios.

“Our goal within Prime is to find emerging technology with dual capabilities and transition to deploy them rapidly after working with many mission partners to meet the needs of our operators and warfighters,” Bieryla said. “This movement with LIFT exemplifies how we aren’t content to sit around and wait on anything. We are getting after the Chief of Staff’s call to ‘Accelerate Change or Lose’.”

The eVTOL aircraft’s use in the upcoming Bushwhacker exercise is expected to demonstrate capabilities including personnel recovery and resupply. The 355th Wing also looks to test other more in-depth use cases in the future. This will improve dynamic forward adaptive basing concepts by pushing capabilities closer to the fight.

“This is the first milestone in developmental operations of eVTOL in rescue and attack, which highlights how the wing continues to actively engage on the front end of these efforts to continue building our readiness for tomorrow’s fight,” Gallagher said. “By doing this, we are furthering the rescue and attack capabilities as we look toward the future, because these are the next generation of flying platforms.”

The future is now and the Air Force is adapting and innovating the way it operates to ensure its ability to deter and defeat any near-peer adversary that may arise.

“Innovation is critical and under AFWERX Agility Prime, we have a unique opportunity to leverage their capabilities and resources by working with technology developers and flight engineers earlier in the process to rapidly make changes and develop these technologies to meet mission requirements,” Gallagher said. “Instead of waiting to receive a product, we are getting engaged early to help shape it to meet our needs, which will pay large dividends once the product is mission ready.”

The eVTOL is in the beginning stages of its growth, but the potential of this technology cannot be overvalued. As it develops further, the effects of these aircraft will be seen across the globe.

“We are currently working with AFWERX to explore the next level of what is possible with this technology to meet the longer term goals operators have,” McCown said. “Getting this feedback from the operators is a great opportunity to shape things going forward. We are very happy to be able to work alongside the Air Force and meet the needs of the service.”

The ever-changing climate of conflict requires the Air Force and DoD to constantly adapt and innovate. The efforts of AFWERX Agility Prime, the 355th Wing and 621st Contingency Response Wing exemplify the Air Force’s commitment to increase capabilities and testing new equipment, ensuring the force remains ready for tomorrow’s fight.

Accelerate launch

AFWERX outlines future opportunities to accelerate innovation

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio (AFRL) – AFWERX Accelerate wrapped-up a weeklong virtual event featuring 179 speakers and 7,000+ registrants with discussions on the six new Prime sectors (energy, game, autonomy, supersonic travel, space and microelectronics), a statement on the newest AFWERX hubs, an announcement on next year’s Prime program and news regarding 2021 opportunities for collaboration.

“Space is the place for our Prime programs in 2021,” said Dr. Will Roper, Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics. While the specific area of space technology is yet to be determined, Roper said he “can’t wait to see what AFWERX and SpaceWERX do to create the next revolution in commercial technology, but driven by military missions.” He also hinted there “may be room for more than one [Prime] next year.”

Roper discussed the overwhelming feedback from the AFWERX community that supports “bringing the Prime methodology into space,” outlining the commercial investments and emerging markets that . . . “could be helped by new warfighting missions being championed by the Space Force.” He noted that, “just as we’ve seen in Agility Prime, where our Air Force missions and our airworthiness processes are unlocking a new electric vertical takeoff and landing market for the U.S., our Space Force missions and our space worthiness processes, have a chance to do the same.”

AFRL Commander Brig. Gen. Heather Pringle called AFWERX Accelerate “a jam-packed exciting week” featuring “Airmen and Space Professionals excited about innovation and the work they are doing.” She referred to the event as “a great way to close a very challenging year” and said her new year’s resolution now involves “aligning the energy and excitement, and frankly, the sense of urgency around the opportunities that are out there to really bring this to bear for our warfighters.”

The five-day virtual event included various keynotes, chats, workshops, networking opportunities and panel discussions focused on AFWERX’s efforts to accelerate collaborative capability development, emerging technology trends and innovative problem solving for the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Space Force.

“One thing that is very true about innovation is that you don’t do it alone,” Roper said. “You need a broad partnership of amazing collaborators and innovators to get to the goal line.”

To accelerate collaborative capability development, AFWERX is establishing relationships with a breadth of industry, investor, interagency, and international stakeholders. These partnerships often focus on nontraditional stakeholders to accelerate the collaborative fielding of novel capabilities using risk mitigation.

“We must have a broad network of partnerships if we’re going to compete against the adversaries we face in the world today at the speeds at which we must compete,” said Roper.

During Accelerate, a virtual audience learned about successes in 2020 and new partnership opportunities for 2021 as AFWERX highlighted industry, investment, interagency and international innovators, as well as those disrupters across the military.

“Innovation inhabits the DNA of the U.S. Air and Space Forces,” said Secretary of the Air Force Barbara Barrett. “Now AFWERX unites the creativity of AFVentures, Spark Innovators, and Agility Prime with the expertise of the Air Force Research Laboratory. Every day we celebrate our partnerships, and we welcome new pace-setters who are inspired to help protect the nation.”

On Dec. 7, AFWERX announced the formation of SpaceWERX, a new entity near Los Angeles Air Force Base that will focus on technologies for the United States Space Force.

Secretary of the Air Force Barbara Barrett said she is thrilled to “celebrate the opening of the first space-focused innovation hub” so close to the first anniversary of our newest Service, the United States Space Force.”

“The global space economy continues to grow at rapid rates, and SpaceWERX is going to help us continue our momentum,” said Lt. Gen. John F. Thompson, Space and Missile Systems Center commander and program executive officer for space. “The goal is “to expand the space industrial base by guiding additional partners, leveraging commercial investment, and rapidly pursuing new space technologies that could be game changers for our space warfighters.” He affirmed, “SpaceWERX will help ensure that Space Force can tap in to those cutting-edge space technologies.”

On Dec. 8, the Air Force Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Program announced the release schedule for Fiscal Year 2021 open topics. Day two also featured presentations on AFVentures, a division of AFWERX that supports commercial investments for the Air Force, creating pathways to connect ideas with resources.

“AFVentures leverages commercial technology to deliver better capabilities to warfighters faster,” said Jason Rathje, AFVentures managing partner. “We are committed to becoming a preferred partner for small business technology development.”

Rathje outlined new opportunities under the Supplemental Funding Pilot Program, a “game changer” that aims to strengthen key relationships, bridge the gap between Phase II and Phase III scaling efforts and deliver “strategic capabilities that meet the department’s needs.”

On Dec. 9, AFWERX invited Airmen and Space Professionals to apply for a new fellowship program and work in one of its three divisions or in private industry. For more information, please visit: https://afwerx.com/form/afwerx-fellowship/.

General Arnold W. Bunch Jr., Commander of Air Force Materiel Command describes this opportunity as a great way to “increase the training of Airmen so they can more effectively collaborate with our commercial industry partners as we look to build these partnerships and move forward.”

Diller noted the “opportunity to join the AFWERX team is open to all ranks from our youngest Airmen to senior members of our enlisted and officer corps.” He explained that this fellowship aims to show talented individuals how to “move from idea to capability.”

AFWERX Agility Prime announced a series of milestones Dec. 10 for its “flying car” program, featuring the ground-breaking of an electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVOTL) simulation facility as well as a ribbon cutting ceremony for the electric aircraft charging station, both at Ohio’s Springfield-Beckley Municipal Airport, near Wright-Patterson AFB, home to AFRL and the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center headquarters.

“Agility Prime is about creating a new path to adopt advanced technologies in the Department of Defense, working with innovative companies and driving new markets,” said AFWERX Director Col. Nathan Diller.

On Dec. 11, Roper also announced the opening of Dayton DigitalWERX, a new innovation hub at AFRL’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Center of Excellence in Dayton, Ohio. He referred to Dayton as a “mecca of Air Force acquisition” since “many Program Executive Offices sit on Wright-Patterson Air Force Base along with the Air Force Research Laboratory.” By “having DigitalWERX off-campus, we can bring in innovators and support the broad mission the Air Force and the Space Force has.”

AFRL’s Executive Director Jack Blackhurst explained that “the ability to use AFWERX, now part of the AFRL team, will add more fuel and really act as a catalyst for Gen. Brown’s and Gen. Raymond’s vision for a digital Space Force and Air Force.” Blackhurst noted that, “as one lab serving two services, AFRL takes great pride in its ‘heritage of innovation’ and looks forward to addressing future challenges.”

In May 2020, AFWERX transitioned to AFRL under the Air Force Materiel Command.

AFWERX is now hiring and would like to hear from you. If you think you might be a good addition to the AFWERX team, or if you just have an idea you would like to collaborate on, let your voice be heard by visiting www.afwerx.af.mil or www.afwerx.com, where recordings of the Accelerate event are also available.

About AFRL

The Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) is the primary scientific research and development center for the Department of the Air Force. AFRL plays an integral role in leading the discovery, development, and integration of affordable warfighting technologies for our air, space, and cyberspace force. With a workforce of more than 11,000 across nine technology areas and 40 other operations across the globe, including AFWERX, AFRL provides a diverse portfolio of science and technology ranging from fundamental to advanced research and technology development. For more information, visit: www.afresearchlab.com.

About AFWERX

Established in 2017, AFWERX is a product of the Department of the Air Force, directly envisioned by former Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson. Her vision of AFWERX — to solve some of the toughest challenges that the Air Force faces through innovation and collaboration amongst our nation’s top subject matter experts. AFWERX serves as a catalyst to unleash new approaches for the warfighter through a growing ecosystem of innovators. As a part of the Air Force Research Laboratory, AFWERX and the Department of the Air Force are committed to exploring viable solutions and partnerships to further strengthen both our space and air forces, which could lead to additional prototyping, R&D, and follow-on production contracts.

Fast Company named AFWERX Best Workplaces for Innovators on the 2020 List, honoring the top 100 businesses and organizations that demonstrate a deep commitment to encouraging innovation at all levels. AFWERX, the Department of the Air Force’s innovation arm and catalyst for fostering innovation within our space and air forces, came in at #16 ranking in the top 20 alongside brands such as Microsoft, Google, and Amazon

Aircraft - eVTOL

Air Force awards first airworthiness approval for human flight in AFWERX Agility Prime electric aircraft program

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio (AFRL) – The U.S. Air Force has awarded the first airworthiness approval for a manned electric aircraft to BETA Technologies, a partner in the AFWERX Agility Prime Program. This enables BETA to begin flying its ALIA aircraft in the Agility Prime program. The airworthiness award from the Air Force is the latest milestone in BETA’s test program after recently entering its next phase of flight testing.

“U.S. Air Force engineers spent more than a year examining BETA’s ALIA aircraft, evaluating its design and flight capabilities against the demanding MIL-HDBK-516C standard,” said Camron Guthrie from BETA. U.S. Air Force personnel and subject matter experts evaluated the aircraft’s design and maintenance requirements along with the company’s operations and flight test plans.

“Electric aviation is a National Security priority and fortunately this was recognized early by the Air Force. The speed and efficiency of the Air Force Agility Prime program to support sustainable electric aviation has been remarkable,” said Kyle Clark, BETA’s founder and CEO. “The people and expertise that the Air Force has brought to the electric aviation industry and specifically our ALIA program is accelerating the development of incredibly capable, safe and reliable aircraft.”

With this airworthiness, the Air Force will have access to the first of its kind, manned 7,000-pound class electric aircraft, and first of their kind immersive eVTOL simulators located in Washington, D.C. and Springfield, Ohio.

“This agreement will enable Air Force acquisition professionals to make data driven decisions informed by real assessments of military utility,” said Col. Nathan Diller, AFWERX Director.

BETA’s aircraft simulation and training facilities allow Air Force pilots and engineers to experience the future of electric vertical flight by rehearsing and testing the ALIA aircraft in a variety of potential mission sets and scenarios. The advanced urban air mobility technology simulator near the Air Force Research Laboratory in Springfield, Ohio, provides easy access to the Air Force’s greatest technical experts and acquisition professionals. The Washington, D.C. facility provides an ideal venue for future operational concept developers across the Air Force, joint force, and interagency to conduct research, assessing the opportunities of the electrified future. These state-of-the-art simulators are physics based and include weather, emergency handling, and mission scenarios with multiple aircraft.

Agility Prime seeks to expand technology transition paths to accelerate emerging dual-use markets by leveraging government resources for rapid and affordable fielding. In a first-of-a-kind arrangement, AFRL engineers used unique equipment and analysis capabilities to conduct structural testing on the ALIA aircraft. This valuable data will advance the flight test program safely while providing valuable insight to the Air Force on a unique and novel aircraft design.

“Agility Prime is about creating a new path to adopt advanced technologies in the Department of Defense by working with innovative companies like BETA in ways that enable new markets,” said Diller. “The engineering, test, and acquisition professionals in Air Force Materiel Command have phenomenal expertise to help accelerate this and other emerging markets.”

In March, BETA advanced to the next phase of its flight testing program, completing an interstate flight with ALIA from its Plattsburgh, New York home airport test facility to the company’s headquarters near Burlington International Airport in Vermont. To abide by Federal Aviation Agency protocols concerning the flight of experimental aircraft beyond designated test areas, BETA completed rigorous testing to ensure reliable and predictable aircraft performance. In the same week that ALIA flew its first interstate flight, BETA also set a new record for range and altitude in ALIA of 130 nautical miles and 8,000 feet respectively.

BETA added to its growing customer list securing agreements with BLADE and UPS for its ALIA aircraft and charging stations. BETA partners now span medical, logistics, defense and passenger segments.

About AFRL

The Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) is the primary scientific research and development center for the Department of the Air Force. AFRL plays an integral role in leading the discovery, development, and integration of affordable warfighting technologies for our air, space, and cyberspace force. With a workforce of more than 11,000 across nine technology areas and 40 other operations across the globe, AFRL provides a diverse portfolio of science and technology ranging from fundamental to advanced research and technology development. For more information, visit: www.afresearchlab.com.

About AFWERX 

AFWERX, a program office at the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), connects innovators across government, industry and academia. Through innovation and collaboration with our nation’s top subject-matter experts and harnessing the power of ingenuity of internal talent, by expanding technology, talent, and transition partnerships for rapid and affordable commercial and military capability.
In 2020, Fast Company ranked AFWERX #16 of Best Workplaces for Innovators, alongside brands such as Microsoft, Google and Amazon.

AFWERX presents to Joint Requirements Oversight Council at commercial-military partnership event

SpaceWERX launches during day one of AFWERX Accelerate

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio (AFRL) – Today AFWERX kicked-off its inaugural Accelerate event with an exciting announcement on the formation of SpaceWERX, a new entity that will focus on technologies for the United States Space Force.

“As we approach the first anniversary of our newest Service, the United States Space Force, we also celebrate the opening of the first space-focused innovation hub at Los Angeles Air Force Base,” said Secretary of the Air Force Barbara Barrett.

“Innovation is embedded in the DNA of our Air and Space forces. AFWERX is uniting the ingenuity of Spark, AFVentures, and Prime with the expertise of the Air Force and Space Force to propel us toward an inspired future,” she said.

“I am excited to announce the standup of SpaceWERX, a Space Force affiliated arm of our AFWERX team, out at Los Angeles Air Force Base, where our amazing men and women at the Space and Missile Systems Center bring amazing capabilities to bear in space for our warfighters every day,” said Dr. Will Roper, the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics.

Roper also explained that AFWERX successfully completed the experimental phase and has transitioned to AFRL under the Air Force Materiel Command.

AFWERX is “connecting formally to the acquisition system and AFMC, the big purchasing engine that we represent in the Air Force and Space Force,” Roper said.

SpaceWERX will closely align its efforts with space operators and acquisition professionals within the USSF Space and Missile Systems Center and work with other groups that contribute to our national security space architecture, including AFRL. These stakeholders will identify warfighter needs and match technologies to opportunities for integration.

“The global space economy continues to grow at rapid rates, and SpaceWERX is going to help us continue our momentum,” said Lt. Gen. John F. Thompson, Space and Missile Systems Center commander and program executive officer for space.

“The goal is to expand the space industrial base by guiding additional partners, leveraging commercial investment, and rapidly pursuing new space technologies that could be game changers for our space warfighters,” he said. “SpaceWERX will help ensure that Space Force can tap in to those cutting-edge space technologies.”

With day one of Accelerate completed with a focus on SpaceWERX, day two promises an exciting look into new business opportunities with AFWERX into 2021.

Day 2 of AFWERX Accelerate, which begins at 12 p.m. Eastern on Dec. 8 will bring a discussion of AFVentures, which leverages Small Business Innovation and Research and Small Business Technology Transfer (SBIR/STTR) funding and private capital to deliver military capabilities, expand the defense industrial base and grow the U.S. economy. Also, AFWERX will review 2020 successes and provide a look ahead at new programs for 2021. A presentation providing insight into the Air and Space Force’s interests in loans and credit to help grow the industrial base interested in defense will round out the agenda for Day 2.

To register and learn more about AFWERX Accelerate, visit, www.afwerx.com.

For the live feed of the event activities, visit www.afwerx.com or https://www.af.mil/live beginning at 12 p.m. Eastern through December 11.

About AFRL

The Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) is the primary scientific research and development center for the Department of the Air Force. AFRL plays an integral role in leading the discovery, development, and integration of affordable warfighting technologies for our air, space, and cyberspace force. With a workforce of more than 11,000 across nine technology areas and 40 other operations across the globe, including AFWERX, AFRL provides a diverse portfolio of science and technology ranging from fundamental to advanced research and technology development. For more information, visit: www.afresearchlab.com.

About AFWERX

Established in 2017, AFWERX is a product of the Department of the Air Force, directly envisioned by former Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson. Her vision of AFWERX — to solve some of the toughest challenges that the Air Force faces through innovation and collaboration amongst our nation’s top subject matter experts. AFWERX serves as a catalyst to unleash new approaches for the warfighter through a growing ecosystem of innovators. As a part of the Air Force Research Laboratory, AFWERX and the Department of the Air Force are committed to exploring viable solutions and partnerships to further strengthen both our space and air forces, which could lead to additional prototyping, R&D, and follow-on production contracts.

Fast Company named AFWERX Best Workplaces for Innovators on the 2020 List, honoring the top 100 businesses and organizations that demonstrate a deep commitment to encouraging innovation at all levels. AFWERX, the Department of the Air Force’s innovation arm and catalyst for fostering innovation within our space and air forces, came in at #16 ranking in the top 20 alongside brands such as Microsoft, Google, and Amazon.

The University of Texas at Austin - Staff Force Personnel Services

AFWERX presents to Joint Requirements Oversight Council at commercial-military partnership event

AUSTIN, Texas – The Air Force Research Laboratory’s AFWERX program co-organized and participated in an event April 9 at Austin’s Capital Factory and UT-Austin, that championed commercial-military innovation and collaboration to the Joint Requirements Oversight Council.

As a statutory council to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the JROC validates the capabilities, capability gap(s) and the analysis for mitigating the gap(s) in support of the acquisition review process across all of the branches of the Department of Defense. Led by the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who also serves as the co-chair of the Defense Acquisition Board, members of the JROC include the vice chiefs of staff of each military service.

Attendance included State of Texas government officials, University of Texas at Austin faculty and administration and nationally recognized investment and entrepreneurial leaders, including Mark Cuban. The event featured presentations and demonstrations by AFWERX, the Army Futures Command and the Defense Innovation Unit at Texas’ entrepreneurial hub, Capital Factory, and included a company-sponsored live flight at UT-Austin’s football stadium of LIFT Aircraft’s “Hexa,” one of the aircraft currently included in AFWERX’s Agility Prime program.

Industry and DOD collaboration success stories served as the event’s focus as well as mitigation of any challenges that industry seeking to collaborate with the DOD may face. Because these collaborations involve defense acquisition, this event could potentially influence the JROC’s decisions as a defense acquisition authority, which can, in turn, affect future acquisition processes.

During AFWERX’s presentation, Col. Nathan P. Diller, director of AFWERX, gave an introduction that was succeeded by conversational deep dives led by other AFWERX leaders about AFWERX’s three divisions: Spark, AFVentures and Prime. The presentation provided AFWERX with an opportunity to show how it transitions technologies into agile, affordable and accelerated military capabilities by teaming commercial technology developers with Air and Space Force talent.

“When we talk about AFWERX, AFWERX is fundamentally focused on extending that industrial base,” Diller said.

AFWERX’s Ryan “LEAFF” Erickson, a Special Warfare National Guard Airman, and Lt. Col. JR Gibbens, a Reservist, presented the AFVentures division. They explained how AFVentures facilitates matching funds between the Small Business Innovation and Research Program Office and the private investment community to align for-profit capital with capabilities that dually accelerate developing commercial technologies and solutions to military problems.

Vice Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. David W. Allvin emphasized to his fellow JROC members the driving force in the creation of AFWERX.

“First of all, we wanted to be able to make sure that we could leverage all of the talent within the United States Air Force,” Allvin said. “Second, AFVentures really has a lot to do with SBIR contracts and scaling that up. Some of the barriers to entry for the smaller startup companies that have some of the greatest ideas that we have not created, are ones we can actually clear.”

Gibbens expounded, saying that AFVentures has grown the industrial-military base by investing in—and essentially jumpstarting—innovative small and entrepreneurial companies.

“How do we invest in these companies?” Gibbens asked. “We follow with what the Department of Health & Human Services is doing and set up a venture capitalist program. Something the government does really well—89 other federal programs—is lend money to the tune of over a trillion dollars a year.”

He cited the Department of Energy loaning Elon Musk $465 million in 2010 to stand up the Tesla Fremont facility, which Tesla paid back in three years, as launching Tesla without costing the taxpayer anything and actually making money for the government.

Diller described how AFVentures has benefitted from this model.

“We have been able to work with the Small Business Administration, which has allowed us to get waivers for up to $50 million of SBIR funding if there are matching funds out there,” Diller said. “Since we have begun this AFVentures model, which is a little over 18 months ago, we are now getting $5 for every dollar we are putting in; that is $2.2 billion dollars of non-DoD commercialization. These are funds that are going directly into companies that are producing something that is of interest to us. This is how we get these returns—in, some cases, a 20 to 1 return. Another area that we are looking at besides SBIR is this idea of being able to use a debt program.”

Following the presentation attendees gathered at the UT-Austin football stadium for a live flight demonstration of “Hexa,” an eVTOL aircraft built by Agility Prime contractor LIFT Aircraft, and interacted with local business leaders and technology companies at a business showcase in the stadium’s Hall of Heroes.

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