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Summit charts future of installation, mission support innovation

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The Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center delivered an in-depth look into the Air Force innovation ecosystem during its inaugural Worldwide Innovation Summit, Sept. 1-2, 2020. The summit included discussions about the future of Air Force innovation and AFWERX, Small Business Innovation Research opportunities, Airmen Empowerment, rapid acquisition programs and more. (U.S. Air Force graphic by Shannon Carabajal)

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas (AFNS) -- The Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center delivered an in-depth look into the Air Force innovation ecosystem during its inaugural Worldwide Innovation Summit Sept. 1-2.

With a theme of Evolution of Innovation, the virtual event brought more than 100 installation and mission-support leaders and innovators together for a series of special engagements designed to help them empower Airmen and learn about opportunities available to pursue and cultivate innovative ideas.

The event also connected base-level leaders with Air Force and industry innovators; a valuable opportunity that helps break down barriers to innovation, said Maj. Gen. Tom Wilcox, AFIMSC commander, as he kicked off the summit.

“We want to hear from you. We want to answer your questions. I’m absolutely excited about what we’re doing in the innovation-realm of installation and mission support,” he said. “A huge shout-out to our innovators at the installations who continually bring us great ideas. It’s our job … to get the money and to see those ideas come to fruition.”

The summit included discussions about the future of Air Force innovation and AFWERX, Small Business Innovation Research opportunities, Airmen Empowerment, rapid acquisition programs and more.

“We wanted to share what we’ve learned so far during our time as an innovation office, and provide an opportunity for the Air Force mission-support-group community to connect and learn from our ecosystem partners,” said Emilie Miller, AFIMSC Ventures innovation program analyst.

Those relationships will help commanders empower and encourage their Airmen to innovate, according to Col. Greg Beaulieu, 325th Mission Support Group commander at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida.

“If the Air Force is to maintain its competitive advantage across the air and space domain in this new realm of great power competition, it will take every Airman to continue to find ways to innovate and, more importantly, implement that innovation at the speed of relevance,” he said.

Over the past 18 months, AFIMSC’s innovation efforts have garnered $65 million in Air Force and venture-capital funding going toward installation and mission support initiatives. The staff at AFIMSC Ventures, the center’s office charged with taking innovative ideas from the drawing board to implementation, believes opportunities to collaborate with commanders across the Air Force will help build on that momentum.

“We hope this event will grow our network, connecting the coalition of the motivated, and keep us learning as we connect and strive for even more innovative efforts,” Miller said.

Organizers wrapped up the summit by sharing strategies for competing in the 2021 AFIMSC Innovation Rodeo. This year’s theme is Base of the Future, a broad topic with endless mission support-centric possibilities. The competition gives Airmen a chance to help shape how installations will look and function in the future.

“While we live and breathe innovation (at AFIMSC), there’s still a lot of culture change and outreach to enable innovation at every level across the enterprise. We will never be finished innovating, and striving to make life and work better for our Airmen,” Miller said.

Additional summit sessions aimed at U.S. Air Forces in Europe-Air Forces Africa and Pacific Air Forces leaders are scheduled for Sept. 8 and 9. For more information, contact AFIMSC Ventures at AFIMSC.Innovation@us.af.mil.

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