AFWERX Fusion, MDO Challenge drive collaboration between industry, military, academia

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Members of the AFWERX team speak about accelerated contracting pathways for doing business with the U.S. Air Force during AFWERX Fusion 2019 on July 24 in Las Vegas. The annual event featured speakers, panels and product showcases focused on solving U.S. Air Force challenges with existing commercial products and concepts. (Air Force photograph by Bridget Bennett)

The collisions that are common in the private sector are few and far between for Airmen and other military members who are increasingly looking for ways to advance their branch’s capabilities.

To better foster a culture of collaboration and innovation within the Air Force, AFWERX Fusion brought more than 1,200 people from business, military and academia as well as close to 120 Multi-Domain Operations Challenge teams and companies together under one roof July 23-24, 2019.

“We’re here to build, not only technologies, but to build out those relationships and that ecosystem so that we can secure our nation’s future,” said Dr. Brian Maue, AFWERX CEO. “What history suggests is, if people are given a creative environment and a safe place to experiment with new ideas, amazing innovations can happen.”

As AFWERX’s flagship event, Fusion entices participation from various organizations, sectors and missions to listen to speakers and panelists, share ideas and collaborate on the spotlight AFWERX challenge of the year.

A total of 317 teams initially submitted to this year’s focus, the MDO Challenge, and 100 were invited to AFWERX Fusion along with 20 Small Business Innovation Research contract recipients. Following judging during the event, 30 teams were selected to attend the demonstration day scheduled Sept. 10-12 at the AFWERX Vegas Hub.

“Multi-domain operations is a very complex challenge,” Maue said. “What the AFWERX Fusion Xperience has done is bring together industry, research, and military leaders to put together prototype concepts that our military stakeholders can look at and say, ‘I want to make American stronger by developing these prototypes to best handle the multi-domain operations challenge.’”

The Arctic Spark team from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson poses for a picture during AFWERX Fusion 2019 on July 24 in Las Vegas. The annual event featured speakers, panels and product showcases focused on solving U.S. Air Force challenges with existing commercial products and concepts. (Air Force photographs by Bridget Bennett)

Exhibitors, 60 percent of which had never worked with the military before, were recognized for their efforts toward making the Air Force more lethal, efficient and effective across air, space, cyber, land and sea environments.

“[The] AFWERX Fusion event is a great example on how other government agencies should be embracing technology, entrepreneurs and academia to rapidly prototype and solve some of the greatest challenges we are facing in this country and abroad,” said Pamela Norton, chief executive officer and founder of Borsetta and one of the 30 finalists. “The Fusion event was professional, objective, informative and a great collaborative platform that is bringing together our military, solutions providers, technologists and academia into an open environment to make this country and our world a better place!”

AFWERX is designed to more quickly, effectively and efficiently solve some of the toughest challenges that the Air Force faces through innovation, collaboration and out-of-the-box approaches.

By bringing in Airmen from as far away as Ramstein Air Base, Germany, and as close as Creech Air Force Base, Nev., and connecting them into an ecosystem rich in expertise and new perspectives, AFWERX was able to do one thing it does best; break down silos and drive collaboration across perceived barriers.

“I’m beyond excited to see the outcome of the many interactions we experienced while attending (AFWERX Fusion),” said Airman 1st Class John-Austin Gallardo, 673rd Medical Group Arctic Spark liaison at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska. “Introductions, networking, infrastructure development and new friendships have yielded an atmosphere that I want to see within the service. It’s the future of the Air Force—a culture shift beyond measure.”