AF lab, ABQid join to ex­plore lo­cal tech in­no­va­tions

Project will pur­sue de­fense po­ten­tials

Albuquerque Journal - - BUSINESS - BY KEVIN ROBINSON-AVILA JOUR­NAL STAFF WRITER

A na­tional Air Force ini­tia­tive to part­ner with the best and brightest busi­ness in­no­va­tors on new tech­nolo­gies has touched down in New Mex­ico.

The Air Force Re­search Lab­o­ra­tory at Kirt­land Air Force Base signed a three-year, $750,000 con­tract in April with the Al­bu­querque-based ABQid busi­ness ac­cel­er­a­tor to help build col­lab­o­ra­tive re­la­tions with pri­vate com­pa­nies work­ing on new tech­nolo­gies of use to both the Air Force and the open mar­ket.

The part­ner­ship could turn tech­nol­ogy trans­fer on its head by cre­at­ing paths for com­pa­nies build­ing com­mer­cial prod­ucts to in­tro­duce them to the mil­i­tary, rather than the tra­di­tional push to find new mar­kets for gov­ern­ment tech­nolo­gies orig­i­nally de­vel­oped for de­fense pur­poses, said ABQid Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor T.J. Cook.

“Tra­di­tional tech­nol­ogy trans­fer is about get­ting ideas out of the AFRL and into the mar­ket­place, but this is the other way around,” Cook said. “We want to build AFRL aware­ness about new, pri­vately built tech­nolo­gies that the Air Force could ben­e­fit from and ac­quire.”

It’s part of a fresh, na­tional ef­fort by the Air Force and other de­fense-re­lated agen­cies to more rapidly de­velop and ac­quire tech­nolo­gies that im­prove mil­i­tary ca­pa­bil­i­ties, said AFRL Tech­nol­ogy En­gage­ment Of­fice Di­rec­tor Matt Fetrow.

“There’s a huge trend in the Air Force to ac­cel­er­ate in­no­va­tion, and we rec­og­nize that folks in the com­mu­nity have amaz­ing tech­nolo­gies,” Fetrow said. “We want to find novel ways to tap into that.”

The Air Force cre­ated a De­fense Tech­nol­ogy Ac­cel­er­a­tor in 2016 for that pur­pose. It part­nered with LightSpeed In­no­va­tions to launch a “Space Ac­cel­er­a­tor” for com­mer­cial en­ti­ties with spac­ere­lated tech­nolo­gies. And this year, the Air Force joined the na­tion­ally renowned Tech­stars net­work to cre­ate a Bos­ton-based Tech­stars Au­ton­o­mous Tech­nol­ogy Ac­cel­er­a­tor that of­fered a three-month pro­gram for com­pa­nies with in­no­va­tive prod­ucts to counter en­emy drones.

AFRL and ABQid are study­ing those and other ini­tia­tives to de­ter­mine what would work best in New Mex­ico. The first pro­grams could be un­veiled in the fall.

“This is a multi-year ef­fort,” Cook said. “We don’t want to just do some­thing once. We want to de­velop a long-term process.”

It will in­clude ag­ile ways for small com­pa­nies to do busi­ness with the Air Force.

“Small, in­no­va­tive com­pa­nies are of­ten dis­cour­aged by the lengthy gov­ern­ment ac­qui­si­tions process,” Fetrow said. “We need time­lines con­sis­tent with what ex­cites small busi­nesses.”

The part­ner­ship with ABQid is the lat­est twist in ro­bust AFRL ef­forts to en­gage more with the lo­cal com­mu­nity on tech­nol­ogy trans­fer. That in­cludes a new team ef­fort with the state’s re­search uni­ver­si­ties and North­ern New Mex­ico Col­lege to work with in­vestors and lo­cal busi­nesses, plus AFRL’s de­ci­sion last year to open an of­fice at the Lobo Rain­for­est build­ing at the In­no­vate ABQ re­search and de­vel­op­ment hub Down­town.

MOR­GAN PETROVSKY/JOUR­NAL

The Air Force Re­search Lab­o­ra­tory on Kirt­land Air Force Base. The lab, to­gether with ABQid, will seek to ac­quire and de­velop tech­nolo­gies with mil­i­tary ca­pa­bil­i­ties cre­ated by small lo­cal com­pa­nies.

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