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Techstars, the U.S. Air Force, and BAE Systems FAST Labs are proud to announce the opening of applications for the third class of the Air Force Accelerator Powered by Techstars.  This year’s interest areas expand beyond previous year’s focus’ of autonomous technologies and AR/VR for training and education to include physical and cybersecurity of bases and installations.

Kicking off in 2018, the inaugural Techstars Autonomous Technology Accelerator with the U.S. Air Force, which renamed and expanded in 2019 to the Air Force Accelerator Powered by Techstars, was an experiment by the Air Force in establishing closer ties to innovative early-stage startups with commercially viable products and making it easier to do business with the Air Force. AFWERX, the sponsoring agency, determined that the pace of innovation in the private sector is accelerating away from the military. To maintain dominance, the Air Force needs to engage startups that otherwise avoid DoD bureaucracy, by making it as easy to do business with the Air Force as it is to do business with any commercial entity, rather than trying to train small businesses to be defense contractors. The 2018 and 2019 programs yielded 20 companies that have won more than $14M in non-dilutive contracts for prototypes and products, and are on the verge of fielding state-of-the-art capabilities to warfighters.

“We were surprised and delighted by the disruptive innovations produced by the first two classes, and the commercial pace at which those innovations are being fielded,” said Captain Steve Lauver, Director of Technology Accelerators at AFWERX.  “As we aggressively seek to improve our sales cycles, processes, and the speed at which we transition promising technology to the warfighter, it is invaluable to have an experienced and respected partner, like Techstars, to help us build trust and interact seamlessly with the startup ecosystem.”

As with the 2019 program, several Air Force offices have signed up to deliver capability at the speed of relevance for our 2020 program, including the AFIMSC Tyndall Program Management Office (PMO), National Security Innovation Network (NSIN, formerly MD5), and Air Force Research Lab Small Business Office (AFRL/SB). The Boston-based program will again be run by Warren Katz, Managing Director.  

BAE Systems is once again a corporate sponsor of the program, and as such, will fully participate in the recruiting and selection process, and have close interactions with all the participating companies during program. More on BAE Systems’ FAST LabsTM research and development can be found here

“At BAE Systems we have learned first-hand how teaming up with Techstars supports our goal of leveraging and developing disruptive technologies to deliver discriminating solutions to our customers,” said Dr. Jerry M. Wohletz, Vice President and General Manager of FAST Labs at BAE Systems. “We remain committed to lending our technical expertise, market knowledge and resources to startups in support of the local innovation ecosystems.”

To support the seamless purchase of prototypes and products produced by companies going through the accelerator, AFWERX has pioneered a new variant of the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Program that utilizes massively simplified proposal formats, accelerated award cycles, and a Phase II structure that resembles commercial product purchase orders as opposed to defense-contractor style labor contracts.  The program will award some $200M of contracts to commercial entities, including accelerator class companies, in FY2020.

The Air Force Accelerator Powered by Techstars will focus on commercially viable startups with dual-purpose technologies– a private sector application as well as government application.  Though startups with innovative solutions in any dual-purpose industry are encouraged to apply, specific areas of interest include: 

    • Autonomous technologies that might enable or enhance the ability to detect, track, identify, characterize, attribute or mitigate unmanned systems, including but not limited to sensor technology, high-performance computational hardware and software, computer vision and digital image processing, AI, multi-modal sensor integration, secure communications, trusted identification, power systems, high-performance materials, integration systems, and human-machine interface. 
    • Innovative immersive-training technologies including AR/VR and adult learning methods such as gamification, social delivery and self-directed learning, and technologies to support data-enabled recruiting, training and education.
    • Base of the Future technologies that improve the security, affordability, efficiency, connectivity and quality of life at Air Force installations across the world.  These will be specifically tied to a multi-billion-dollar, landmark effort by the Tyndall PMO to support the “long-term redevelopment of Tyndall Air Force Base as the model Air Force ‘Installation of the Future.'”

Interested in this program? Applications are open now.


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