39th CONS hosts startup collider, connects Airmen to industry innovators

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Matthew Angulo
  • 39th Air Base Wing

The 39th Contracting Squadron hosted a conference, called “startup collider,” May 2, 2022.

The event enabled startup businesses to share ideas and technology with Airmen and Guardians in leadership positions for potential investments and collaboration as part of the Air Force’s AFWERX program. 

AFWERX is the Air Force’s innovation hub that teams Airman and Guardian expertise with technology developers from the civilian sector to accelerate change throughout the service. One of AFWERX’s initiatives includes collider events that are held throughout the Air Force.

“One of the big things that’s an issue for industry is that they don’t know whom to talk to,” 1st Lt. Henry Camp, 39th CONS director of business operations, said. “They don’t know what problems our Airmen have. They’re looking for a way in. Events like this present the potential for a conversation that could lead to another development. It’s about connecting people to get after an accelerated change.”

During the startup collider, companies presented a variety of technology to potential investors, including advanced robotics, artificial intelligence and 3-D printers for replacing aircraft parts.

According to Staff Sgt. John Cone, a contracting officer assigned to the 39th CONS, events like this are mutually beneficial for up-and-coming startups and the Air Force because they foster technological advancement for both parties.

“The U.S. government leveraged small businesses like Raytheon, BAE, and Boeing,” Cone explained. “All these defense contractors got their start as small businesses...These companies got huge. The Small Business Administration is trying to do the same thing with the Small Business Innovation Research program.”

The Small Business Innovation Research program is a federal government initiative that provides grants to encourage domestic small businesses to engage in federal research/research and development with the potential for commercialization. These grants, leveraged by AFWERX, could potentially supplement investments made by the Air Force to further innovation and development.

Camp said the startup collider was a success and already sees a return on investment.

“Three units at Incirlik AB are partnering up with Ghost Robotics, Aetos, and Neural Magic on $2.2 million in prototyping grant opportunities to come up with some larger-than-life solutions,” he said. 

Visit www.AFWERX.af.mil to discover more about AFWERX and how to make a difference.