‘FORCECON 2022’ spurs collaboration, innovation for Air Force, industry, academia

  • Published
  • By Capt. Lauren Woods
  • Air Education and Training Command Public Affairs

The inaugural FORCECON 2022: Innovation – Technology – Gaming convention kicked off in San Antonio with a collider event May 24-25 to spur collaboration between the military, industry and academia, with a goal of tackling some of the military’s toughest challenges in the areas of force development, and installation and mission support.

“We're looking to build new ideas, break how we've been doing things, to be able to do them better within a system,” said Dr. Wendy Walsh, Air Education and Training Command chief learning officer, who opened the first day of the event. “It takes all of us, industry, academia, and military, to connect the pieces and create a culture of continuous improvement, so that we can sustain the innovation until it no longer serves us.”

Fueled by a team-up between members representing the University of Texas-San Antonio’s Center for Government Contracting, AETC and Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center, the agenda for the industry collider included presentations, panels and an exposition hall with 70 vendors focused on innovation in force development and mission support.  

Highlights from the first day, which focused on AETC innovation priorities, included remarks from San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg and Guy Walsh, UTSA National Security Collaboration Center executive director, as well as presentations on teaming with academia, digital proficiency and technology innovations in learning.

“Events such as FORCECON 2022 showcase “Military City USA’s” commitment to helping strengthen relationships between the DoD, academia and industry,” Nirenberg said. “These relationships and joint efforts on emerging technology strengthen our national security.”

The day concluded with the iChallenge competition, where seven finalists from AETC presented pitches to a panel of judges for a chance to win $250,000 in funding for their innovative ideas.

During the second day, discussions centered on what industry and academia can bring to bear for installation and mission support.

"Partnering and collaborating with academia and industry is critical as they bring new and often unique perspectives into military and government organizations," said Dustin Dickens, an innovation program analyst with AFIMSC Ventures. "Often on the leading edge, the capability and concepts they bring to our Airmen and Guardians can be anything from a small change to something large and instrumental."

Partnerships made at industry day events benefit all mission partners, Dickens said.

"Paired with government and military, these joint relationships can propel all parties forward as we learn from one another and advance our collaborative goals. The results and relationships are often game changing and can help the Department of the Air Force be at the forefront of new and emerging technologies."

In addition to the industry collider, FORCECON 2022 also includes the Air Force’s first federally-recognized eSports competition organized by Air Force Gaming. The Department of the Air Force Gaming League, Air Force Gaming and Space Force Gaming leverage gaming and the digital universe as an innovative approach to resiliency and force retention, focused on grassroots-level community building across the DoD.