Photo credit: Department of the Air Force Technology Transfer and Transition Office (T3)
Partnership Intermediary Agreements, otherwise known by the acronym “PIAs”, are agreements between the government and an intermediary organization, such as state and/or local governmental agencies and nonprofit entities. They are operated by or on behalf of a state or local government to perform partnership intermediary services that increase the likelihood of success in the conduct of cooperative or joint activities with small business firms and educational institutions that need technology-related assistance from a federal laboratory.
More specifically, PIAs can function at the Department of Defense (DoD) level, and they assist DoD laboratories and agencies with technology transfer and transition. PIA focus areas range from identifying the commercialization scope for DoD technologies to finding federal opportunities for technology innovation (from small businesses and academia) and deploying Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) outreach efforts to promote STEM-related careers.
There are also U.S. Air Force regional PIAs located throughout the United States that work with specific Air Force laboratories and agencies to support the successful application of science and technology proposals from industry and academia to the Small Business Innovation Research and Technology Transfer (SBIR/STTR) program- as well as promote the commercialization of Air Force technologies and identify and assist small businesses with technology research that benefits the warfighter.
The following are descriptions of the various DoD and U.S. Air Force PIAs around the Nation.
MilTech, located at Montana State University, works with the Department of Homeland Security to bring innovative technology into the DoD. MilTech’s services include Tech Scouting and Market Research; Design, Design Review, and Prototyping; Independent Government Cost Estimates; Cost Reduction Recommendations; Vendor Manufacturing Capability Assessment and Review; Vendor-Partner Scouting Identification and Assessment, and Design and Manufacturing Expertise for Integrated Planning Teams (IPTs).
MilTech was instrumental in the development of Rev MedX’s “The XStat™ syringe, a first-in-kind hemostatic device for the treatment of gunshot and shrapnel wounds on the battlefield.
TechLink, also located at Montana State University, assists all DoD and Department of Veteran Affairs laboratories with technology transfer and transition. TechLink services include Defense TechLink, Technology Transfer, TechLink Software Engineering and Analysis (T-SEAL) and SBIR Outreach.
Recently, TechLink assisted American Innovations, Inc. in licensing a proactive detection methodology for collapsing Improvised Explosive Device (IED) supply chains from the Naval Surface Warfare Center. Read more about this success story here.
U.S. Air Force PIAs
1. The Academic Partnership Engagement Experiment (APEX)
The Academic Partnership Engagement Experiment (APEX) is a PIA managed by Parallax Advanced Research and is the first academia-focused partnership intermediary funded by the Department of the Air Force. The program connects universities with innovative intellectual property to complimentary small businesses and facilitates technology transfer of said technologies to the Department of the Air Force.
APEX services include Creativity & Innovation; Data Analytics; Education & Training; National Engagement; Organizational & Workforce Development; SBIR/STTR Process Navigation, and Technology Transition. Specifically, APEX’s National Engagement effort works regionally to identify universities with innovative technologies and inform about opportunities and assistance with the AFWERX SBIR/STTR awards.
One of the small businesses that benefitted from APEX services is Immobileyes, that won a $50,000 AFWERX STTR Phase I award for their revolutionary laser defense system for artificial intelligence-powered drones that can intervene in dangerous encounters by disrupting, delaying, and deterring an adversary upon detection. Read the full story here.
2. Basic Research Innovation Collaboration Center (BRICC)
Powered by Virginia Tech Applied Research Corporation (VT-ARC), the Basic Research Innovation Collaboration Center (BRICC) PIA supports the Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR) with discovering and promoting basic research that impacts the U.S. Air Force while also facilitating STEM events to promote scientific careers and future innovators. BRICC services include Analytics, Technology Transfer, Workforce Development, and the facilitation of STEM events. The BRICC recently hosted the Women's Science and Technology (S&T) Senior Leadership Forum, which provided a valuable discussion on women in or seeking leadership roles in the S&T field.
3. Catalyst Campus
Catalyst Campus is a collaborative ecosystem where industry, small businesses, workforce training, entrepreneurs, startups, and venture capital intersect with the aerospace and defense industry to foster innovation and grow business.
Catalyst Campus programs consist of The Catalyst Accelerator; The Forge; Platform One; Space CAMP; Sprint Advanced Concepts Training (SACT); Unified Data Library (UDL); Cross Mission Ground and Communications Enterprise; Commercial Augmentation Service (CAS); Advanced Concept Ecosystem for Space (ACES); Air Force CyberWorx and Microsoft Software & Systems Academy (MSSA).
C-TRAC is a center for technology, research, and commercialization and provides services to maintain the flow of innovation in the marketplace and generate revenue to support economic development and research activities. C-TRAC services include Accelerator Programs; Demonstrations & Showcases; Innovation Competitions; Design Thinking Solution and Technology Marketplace.
In 2017, C-TRAC worked behind the scenes on a CyberWorx Design Sprint. C-TRAC helped to track down individuals and resources from industry leaders to subject matter experts and made sure that the top intellectual resources were well-supported and that the ambitious project would generate innovative ideas. Read more here.
5. Cyber Innovation Center (CIC)
Cyber Innovation Center (CIC), an anchor of the 3,000-acre National Cyber Research Park, fosters collaboration among its partners and accelerates technology, research, and development. One of its primary missions is to develop a sustainable knowledge-based workforce that can support the growing needs of government, industry, and academic partners. CIC has facilitated a collaboration between STRIKEWERX, Air Force Global Strike Command’s Innovation Hub, and Louisiana State University in Shreveport (LSUS) to develop prototypes and solutions that will help improve the lives of Airmen across the Command.
6. The Doolittle Institute
The Doolittle Institute is a non-profit funded by the Air Force Research Laboratory and focuses its work on four main area: connect AFRL with people, organizations, products, and technologies that will enhance the lab’s ability to conduct their research and development; facilitate process improvement, strategic planning, and prototype development inside the lab; promote patented products and technologies developed by the lab for commercialization outside the DoD; and conduct regional STEM outreach programs to develop tomorrow’s science & technology workforce for the lab. Furthermore, the Institute’s services include Technology Transfer, Innovation, and Collaboration. Doolittle Institute also manages STEM events like FIRST® and LEGO® programs. In April 2021, the Doolittle Institute facilitated the launch of the Team Eglin Weapons Digital Enterprise in the Armament Industry Roundtable (AIR2021), which introduced industry leaders to relevant points of contact from the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center (AFLCMC), the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), and the 96th Test Wing.
7. The Griffiss Institute
The Griffiss Institute, a talent and technology accelerator for the United States Department of Defense and an international network of academic, government and industry partners, has been serving AFRL’s Information Directorate (AFRL/RI), the Mohawk Valley region, and the United States since 2002. The institute is devoted to facilitating partnerships that work on solving complex national problems. Under its PIA with the AFRL, Griffiss Institute services include Technology Transfer, Commercialization Academy, IDEA NY Mohawk Valley Accelerator Program, Educational Outreach (STEM), and Innovative Concepts. In addition, it also offers a Visiting Faculty Program, Student Internship Program, NYS (New York State) certified Business Incubator, and a Center for Career Training and Education. One of the institute’s partnership success stories is the recent unveiling of the Innovare Advancement Center (IAC), an open innovation campus, which is a partnership between the Griffiss Institute, AFRL/RI, New York State, Oneida County (OC), the City of Rome, New York State Technology Exchange Center (NYSTEC), and the State University of New York (SUNY).
MGMWERX is a PIA between DEFENSEWERX and AFRL, focused on augmenting Air University programs to foster high-quality innovative research to benefit the Air Force. It assesses the landscape in the ecosystem of defense, innovation, and adult education to identify the most promising concepts, prototypes, or commercially available technologies that can be leveraged as solutions for the warfighter. MGMWERX received a $50,000 grant from the Alabama Power Foundation to continue its work in the areas of collaboration, innovation, and creating improvement through education, technology, and programming. Read more here.
9. New Mexico Tech Engagement Office
New Mexico Tech Engagement Office handles technology transfer/commercialization and STEM education outreach programs for the Air Force Research Laboratory Directed Energy and Space Vehicles Directorates (AFRL RD/RV). Their services include facilitating and hosting the Enterprise Challenge, Hyperspace Challenge, the annual STEMY Awards, AFRL Innovation Awards, and STEM Signing Day, and facilitating contract opportunities for technology innovation in industry.
10. NewSpace New Mexico
NewSpace New Mexico is the newest U.S. Air Force PIA as of 2021. This PIA fosters an entrepreneurial, business-focused commercial space ecosystem in New Mexico by making connections, advocating for stakeholders, and preparing for the future. The PIA’s key service is hosting the NewSpace New Mexico Industry Forum that is led and attended by representatives from New Mexico space companies with the goal of supporting the needs of the New Mexico space industry. Learn more about this new PIA here.
NYSTEC is an independent technology consulting company based in Rome, New York, with offices in Albany and New York City. One of their primary goals is to help foster an innovation ecosystem across the state and beyond.
As an Air Force Partnership Intermediary, the NYSTEC Innovation and Entrepreneurship Practice delivers innovative tech transfer, transition, and commercialization services for the AFRL Information Directorate (AFRL/RI) that advances critical technology by connecting key partners with the research community. Examples include planning/executing Accelerators for innovation-driven enterprises, managing and producing international/national pitch events, and creating opportunities for public/private partnerships in deep tech verticals. Learn more here.
12. RTI International
RTI International is a nonprofit research institute dedicated to improving the human condition. They deliver data, thorough analysis, innovative methods, novel technologies, and sustainable programs that help their clients with public policy development and ground practices.
RTI International provided research on the 10-year DoD funded project Defense Coastal/Estuarine Research Program (DCERP), which improved the understanding of ecosystem processes and their interactions with pollutants at the Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune (MCBCL) located in coastal North Carolina. Read more about that research here.
STRIKEWERX is an innovation hub that connects people and resources across government, industry, and academia to address Air Force Global Strike Command’s needs. Through its services, that include innovation, collaboration, and realization, STRIKEWERX evaluates Air Force Global Strike Command needs and connects industry, academia, and entrepreneurs for successful solutions.
STRIKEWERX partnered with the Louisiana State University in Shreveport (LSUS) to produce prototypes from Airmen’s own ideas to solve a specific need. Read the full story here.
The STRIKEWERX Emergency Aircrew Response Challenge saved an estimated $200 million in acquisition costs. Our design sprints have cut ICBM maintenance time on the TE Jack Slot by 90% and saves $10,000 per year while also saving $18,000 per year in manhours and $106,000 in wasted materials for B-52 maintainers.
14. The Wright Brothers Institute (WBI)
The Wright Brothers Institute (WBI) is one of the Air Force’s first, ground-breaking partnership intermediary organizations. As a center for innovation and technology commercialization, WBI provides solutions to U.S. Air Force initiatives through its innovation, collaboration, and commercialization services. It also ensures ‘Ready and Relevant’ small businesses, AFRL decision makers, and subject matter experts collaborate to find solutions to complex challenges, accelerating capability development. One such collaboration event hosted by WBI was the SBIR Summit that educated businesses for Air Force Engagement. WBI also hosts several innovation challenges that incorporate novel technical solutions, sourced globally, to address critical capability gaps.
Aside from the value provided directly to the Air Force, Wright Brothers Institute is also a powerful enabler of economic growth. This is fostered via agreements with academic, non-profit, state, and government organizations that connect the impactful research at AFRL with entrepreneurial accelerators, creating companies that boost commercial and defense markets.
Next steps: learn more!
The DoD and Department of the Air Force are constantly seeking cutting-edge research and innovations, that take place in academic and entrepreneurial environments, to advance our Nation’s national defense. PIAs play an important role in facilitating these connections and help route innovation from idea to reality via proposal support, education and training, and outreach to the right audiences. To learn more about the DoD and Department of the Air Force PIA ecosystem, visit Air Force Technology Transfer and Transition > PIAs (af.mil).