Air National Guard unit to launch AFWERX Spark Cell
By 2nd Lt. Emerson Marcus, 152 Airlift Wing Public Affairs
/ Published February 26, 2020
RENO, Nev. (AFNS) -- About 70 Spark Cells have launched around the world since the Air Force debuted AFWERX in 2017 -- with a majority in the active-duty sector.
That's changing as the Air National Guard enters the fold.
Earlier this month, the 152nd Airlift Wing, Nevada ANG, also known as the "High Rollers," became the newest unit with the creation of "Silver State Spark."
"For more than a decade, we've seen the private sector, particularly the tech sector, move in this direction toward promoting new ideas and entrepreneurship as a bottom-up approach," said Col. Jacob Hammons, 152nd Airlift Wing commander, who began planning for the creation of a Spark Cell shortly after he took command last November. "A Spark Cell gives Airmen of all ranks the opportunity to think creatively toward new and innovative solutions to the challenges they face in the daily conduct of flying, fighting and winning our nation's wars."
Maj. Greg Green, 152nd Airlift Wing's spark team facilitator, attended a three-day Spark Cell training Feb. 19-21 at the AFWERX hub in Las Vegas.
About 100 military and Defense Department civilians attended the training.
"A Spark Cell is a grassroots innovation program that empowers Airmen to bring tomorrow's tools to the warfighter today," said Maj. Tony Perez, AFWERX spark director, who organized the training in Las Vegas.
Each Spark Cell is different, largely because units receive autonomy in the development of their own program.
Green's program will provide Airmen – with commander approval – the ability to spend up to five days during technician work hours or annual training days to research and plan their proposal. At the conclusion of their research and finalization of the plan, an Airman will have the opportunity to present the proposal to their commander for potential implementation.
"Airmen are already approaching us with interesting ideas," Green said. "There's no doubt a demand for improving the way we do business."
Based largely on the "startup" model, Spark Cells encourage Airmen to act as intraprenuers, which is widely defined as a person working in a large corporation or government who takes an initiative to create new ideas, products or processes. Some Spark Cells hold hackathon or collider events. AFWERX hosted its first collider event last year. The Air Force is set to host Spark Collider in Austin, Texas, on March 10-11 to unite business innovators with the DoD and venture capital stakeholders.
With StartUpNV and the University of Nevada, Reno's Innevation Center, both located in Reno, along with the emergence of tech companies in the region, there's several options for “Silver State Spark” to connect with community partners, Green said.
"There's definitely potential for growth," Green said. "We just need to reach out to our community partners and encourage Airmen here in Reno to come to the table with their ideas."