The Air Force is working to better promote dialogue with industry, academia and nontraditional partners while developing much-needed capabilities more quickly and flexibly. In 2017, it set up AFWERX, an initiative that includes more accessible offices and programs to encourage innovation.
The goal is to show potential partners that “the Air Force is open for business,” said the organization’s director Brian “Beam” Maue in an interview with National Defense. In the months since its 2017 inception, the Air Force has opened facilities in Las Vegas and Arlington, Virginia, that include technical centers, “maker spaces” with basic manufacturing tools and meeting areas to help partners — be they high-tech entrepreneurs or spare-time garage tinkerers — pitch their ideas to the service.
AFWERX is expanding technology, talent, and transition partnerships for rapid and affordable commercial and military capability.
Commercial Technology Industrial Base: The first, AFVentures, is all about tapping both U.S. and global tech ecosystems, using military problems to accelerate commercial technologies. We are transforming the Air and Space Force into an early-stage “investor” that leverages private capital, accelerates commercialization using military missions, and grows the number of companies partnering with us.
Empowered and Innovative Airmen Talent: The second branch, Spark, is all about empowering innovation at the operational edge. Spark connects amazing Airmen and Space Professionals to commercial innovators using virtual collaboration, immersive training, and networking opportunities that inspire ideas and cultivate a creative Force. By connecting operators closer to acquisition, Spark provides both a voice and conduit to turn powerful ideas into powerful operational realities.
Accelerated Capability Through Transitions: The third branch, Prime, is all about priming—and then accelerating—emerging commercial markets using military missions and equities. In addition to funding, Prime programs will leverage other unique Department resources—like test infrastructure, certification authorities, interagency relationships, and early operational use cases—bringing the Air and Space Force’s full value proposition to bear by becoming an early adopter to de-risk emerging markets.