We believe the key to success is the degree to which industry, academia, and government participants “collide” – formally, informally, and socially – with a focus on results and a shared sense of urgency. At our Air Force Research Lab (AFRL) campus in Fort Walton Beach and within the USSOCOM SOFWERX enterprise in Tampa we provide the framework within which our customers collaborate to solve tough science and technology challenges and rapidly prototype solutions. Along the way, we encourage open exchanges of ideas and encourage participants to offer innovative concepts hidden behind proprietary firewalls and within academic patent vaults.
Our role includes promoting workforce development and STEM initiatives to create pipelines for talent and outreach to evolving methods of advanced manufacturing within the private industry. If we do our job well, the nation’s warfighters get better tools faster that help them accomplish their mission with lower risk, our industry partners embrace more technology for both government and commercial markets, and our academic partners move more theory into reality.
To support the above objectives, DEFENSEWERX enters into “Partnership Intermediary Agreements” (PIA) with our customers. The Federal Laboratory Consortium for Technology Transfer defines its PIA as a relationship to: “facilitate joint projects and accelerate technology transfer between the lab and private companies. These intermediaries help companies to identify federal technologies that can be licensed and commercialized. They also work to increase the likelihood of successful cooperative activities between the lab and small businesses.”
The DEFENSEWERX Team (from right to left): Beth Hanning, STEM Outreach Director; Laurie Moncrieff, Executive Director; Voncille Jones, Facilities Manager; Carolyn Fries, Technology Transfer Principal; Robert Kirila, Chief of Operations
In Tampa, our customer USSOCOM explains it this way: “To support USSOCOM’s continued emphasis on innovation, SOF AT&L has established a venue called SOFWERX; an unclassified, open collaboration activity designed to bring nontraditional partners from industry, academia, and the government together to work on USSOCOM’s most challenging problems. SOFWERX was established under a Partnership Intermediary Agreement (PIA) with the Doolittle Institute. A PIA is an agreement between the government and an intermediary organization such as state and local governmental agencies and nonprofit entities operated by or on behalf of a state or local government to perform partnership intermediary services such as promotion of cooperative or joint activities with small business firms and educational institutions that need technology-related assistance.”
The specific tasks for DEFENSEWERX to support our Air Force team in Fort Walton and our Special Operations customers in Tampa include: establishing collaborative environments and running day to day activities; promoting technology transition (getting technology to the warfighter); facilitating technology transfer (getting technology to industry); fostering innovation & collaboration (meeting spaces, networking, and events); and influencing workforce development (current and future, including intern programs and STEM education).
Beyond these specific tasks in support of our customers, DEFENSEWERX joins forces with National, State, and community resources to identify, develop, and introduce innovative new products across government and commercial markets. Success in this area is critical to our defense superiority and economy in general.
DEFENSEWERX acts as a neutral facilitator and hyper-connecter between ecosystems to encourage collaboration and overcome barriers to innovation. The key to our approach is outreach to small businesses. These entrepreneurial firms typically have 50 or less employees, and according to the SBA, makeup 99.7% of all employer firms, creating 60-80% of net new jobs since 1990 and accounting for half of the nation’s private-sector workforce and GDP. Small companies produce 13 x more patents per employee than large firms.
What was published in the SBA’s first Advocacy report in 1979 remains true today:
“Innovation is an essential ingredient for creating jobs, controlling inflation, and for economic and social growth. Small businesses make a disproportionately large contribution to innovations. There is something fundamental about this unusual ability of small firms to innovate that must be preserved for the sake of healthy economic growth”.
Tampa, with its large government footprint, world-class academic infrastructure, appealing environment, workforce potential, growing pool of venture capital, and “drumbeat” of tech challenges, is fast becoming a critical “ecosystem” for the growth described above.
DEFENSEWERX is working behind the scenes of the evolving Special Operations Command innovation centers at SOFWERX, DIRTYWERX, and now THUNDERDRONE. We are proud to be a part of a growing effort to rekindle the spirit of innovation and to assist in the development and commercialization of cutting edge ideas and connect them with the military and the market.