In today’s world, we know innovation can come from anywhere. And if we want to not only innovate but do it faster, then we know opening ourselves up to collaboration is the most efficient way to get there. That is the spirit behind the creation of the AFWERX program by the United States Air Force to foster collaboration with the idea that innovation can come from unexpected places.
The vision of Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson, AFWERX aims to solve some of the toughest challenges that the Air Force faces through innovation and collaboration amongst our nation’s innovators. Together we aim to present accelerated results to the United States Air Force to better serve the warfighter and operators in the Air Force.
Adopting a more open approach, the nearly 1-year old AFWERX initiative has invited startups, academia, entrepreneurs, researchers and the global innovation community - including established defense companies - to contribute to and participate in challenges that are facing the Air Force. The first challenge was around Perimeter Security, followed by the “USAF New Helmet System Open Challenge”. Current open challenges include: “Revolutionizing Pilot Training Open Challenge”, “Mixed Reality Platform Challenge” and the upcoming “Advanced Microelectronics Autonomous Challenge.”
AFWERX has established innovation hubs in Washington, D.C. and Austin, Texas, with their flagship hub in Las Vegas, Nevada, where many events take place. To help innovators progress their ideas towards Air Force needs, AFWERX opens its doors to the 8,000-square-foot, AFWERX Vegas Sprint Lab so creators can get hands-on with 3D printers, shopbots, laser cutters, VR environments and more. Within the sprint lab, innovators can workshop their ideas and collaborate with experts, getting everything they need to perfect their ideas for testing implementation in the field. The light fabrication lab complements their already established 18,000-square-foot collaboration space.
The video (below) shares the AFWERX vision.
Consider this your invitation to collaborate. Check for new challenges regularly and submit your ideas or share them with the innovators in your own network.