The Department of the Air Force partnership intermediary agreement Academic Partnership Engagement Experiment, or APEX, program, administered by Parallax Advanced Research helped build and launch the Air Force and Space Force Tech Connect website with innovation idea submission tool to connect industry, small business and academic innovators with the Department of the Air Force
DAYTON, Ohio -- In April 2019, the Department of the Air Force launched its Science and Technology 2030 Strategy which lays a path forward for the Department of the Air Force science and technology ecosystem to rapidly develop warfighting capabilities. As a result, the Department of the Air Force invested in programs and tools to assist small businesses, innovators, entrepreneurs, academics and anyone with a useful idea for the warfighter with applying for Department of the Air Force Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) and AFWERX/AFVentures awards. The Air Force Tech Connect, also known by its co-brand Space Force Tech Connect, is one of those tools.
It is a web-based tool operated by the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) on behalf of the Department of the Air Force. The tool connects potential partners from academia, small business and industry with the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Space Force on science and technology innovation opportunities. It also provides innovators a portal where they can share their ideas and capabilities with an AFRL subject matter expert for potential feedback, collaboration and opportunities. Driving innovation through partnerships is a key Department of the Air Force strategy and is part of the broader National Defense Strategy.
The Academic Partnership Engagement Experiment (APEX), which is a Department of the Air Force partnership intermediary agreement (PIA) managed by Parallax Advanced Research, helped build the Air Force/Space Force Tech Connect website. APEX has the mission to expand the American research enterprise in a way that moves defense technology from discovery to reality for the Department of the Air Force and achieves this by connecting academic innovators with the Department of the Air Force and industry by eliminating barriers in accelerating the transition of science and technology solutions into operational Department of the Air Force capabilities.
“The collaborative effort between AFRL and APEX, a Department of the Air Force partnership intermediary that directly supports the U.S. Air Force Science and Technology 2030 Strategy, was instrumental in the Air Force and Space Force Tech Connect’s success. As a partnership intermediary, APEX is positioned to provide services that increase the likelihood of success in the conduct of cooperative or joint activities with small business firms and educational institutions. Working with an entity whose focus is to enhance Department of the Air Force partnerships with both small business and academia was beneficial,” said Department of the Air Force Science and Technology 2030 Front Door Lead Elizabeth Escamilla.
The Air Force and Space Force Tech Connect solves innovation to impact roadblocks
Partnering or connecting with the Department of the Air Force science and technology enterprise can be challenging due to its structure and various platforms of engagement. To help counter this, the AFRL developed this innovative business tool to address these challenges via a “service to connect” process. The Air Force and Space Force Tech Connect aims to:
Provide a service to connect industry, innovators, universities and government research centers with experts and opportunities inside the Department of the Air Force science and technology enterprise
Create, manage, review and update partnership mechanisms and processes focused on efficiency
Increase idea solicitation amongst academia and industry
The tool has a nationwide scope to invite and nurture game-changing ideas and technology that might come from anywhere and anyone that can ultimately benefit the warfighter. Since its launch in June 2020, the Air Force and Space Force Tech Connect continues to optimize, gathering input from site visitors and users to make it more efficient and responsive for users to get their ideas evaluated by a Department of the Air Force subject matter expert. The tool’s long-term goal is to expand the Department of the Air Force science and technology ecosystem to include more mission-aligned organizations and organizations of the larger Department of Defense science and technology network.
“The AFRL strongly believes that evolution of business processes must be constant to avoid stagnation and missed opportunities and partnerships. It is expected that the Air Force and Space Force Tech Connect will go through changes and evolutions to keep up with the innovations it seeks to foster,” said Escamilla.
How it works
The Air Force and Space Force Tech Connect team, currently comprised of AFRL personnel, connects quality, relevant ideas with Department of the Air Force subject matter experts and science and technology opportunities. The team reviews the submitted ideas and queries, provides feedback and establishes dialogue with interested U.S. Air Force and U.S. Space Force programs (for relevant submissions only). The tool is available for use by academic, industry, entrepreneurial, government, and small business innovators with ideas that can help propel the Department of the Air Force forward.
“By leveraging S&T advancements in government, university and industry laboratories, the AFRL can move innovations further toward transformational impact within the Department of the Air Force. For those who submit an idea through the Air Force and Space Force Tech Connect, they can expect confirmation that their idea has been received by the AFRL and that feedback on their idea will be provided by a Department of the Air Force subject matter expert in a timely manner,” said Escamilla.
Other opportunities and resources for innovators
Coupled with its idea submission capability, the Air Force and Space Force Tech Connect also provides resources and information for potential collaborators to browse opportunities based on an audience’s sector, sign up to participate in ecosystem events, and learn about follow on funding and grant opportunities and other entities supporting the science and technology effort.
If you are an academic or industry innovator with promising ideas or intellectual property you'd like to commercialize or are interested in collaborating with the Department of the Air Force on science and technology innovation and development, then the Air Force and Space Force Tech Connect team wants to hear from you! Share your ideas here.
About Parallax Advanced Research
Parallax is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that tackles global challenges by accelerating innovation and developing technology and solutions through strategic partnerships with government, industry and academia across Ohio and the Nation. Together with academia, Parallax accelerates innovation that leads to new breakthroughs. Together with government, Parallax tackles critical global challenges and delivers new solutions. Together with industry, Parallax develops groundbreaking ideas and speeds them to market.
APEX cultivates innovation by expanding the American research enterprise for the Department of the Air Force by engaging, connecting and enabling innovators across academia, industry and the Department of Defense (DoD). APEX utilizes data analytics to identify transformational operational defense solutions in academia, industry and government sectors; provides process navigation services for academic teams and small businesses; and enhances cross-sector engagement by providing direct connections to the technology needs of multiple DoD programs.
About Air Force and Space Force Tech Connect
The Air Force and Space Force Tech Connect website provides access to current, open opportunities, meet-up events, other Department of the Air Force science and technology enterprise connectors and a way for anyone to share an idea. The Tech Connect team, comprised of AFRL personnel, connects quality, relevant ideas/technologies with Department of the Air Force subject matter experts. The team will review ideas/inquiries, provide feedback on innovative ideas and establish a dialogue with potentially interested Air Force and Space Force programs.