AFWERX hosts first in-person Collider event since COVID-19 pandemic

  • Published
  • By Matthew Clouse
  • Air Force Research Laboratory Public Affairs

More than 20 industry partners attended the first in-person AFWERX Collider event in over three years at Fed Supernova in Austin. Colliders went virtual during the COVID-19 pandemic but the return of face-to-face interaction gave Air Force leaders the opportunity to share the same room with small businesses and entrepreneurs to spark interaction and unleash American ingenuity to solve warfighter problems.

“Many of you may be wondering, how can I serve my country?” said Col. Elliott Leigh, AFWERX director and chief commercialization officer for the Department of the Air Force. “For some of us, we put on a uniform. But all of you are audacious Americans with ideas and recognize that there is a way you can benefit your country. You're going to hear about some of the problems in the Air Force. Go back and think about your value proposition and how your company can contribute to that and roll that into your proposal.”

Colliders rely on government partners to come to AFWERX with their problems and they must align with the Air Force’s seven Operational Imperatives. The Operational Imperatives are the critical operational capabilities and functions the DAF must invest in to protect the United States’ ability to deter conflict and project power against pacing challenges.

“We want to make sure that we're getting access to the best that the private sector can offer for the Department of the Air Force,” Leigh said. “Let's all be in this together. Think about what's going on in the world and be ready to face the threat.”

Once the government problem set and Operational Imperative focus area is established, AFWERX is responsible for coordinating the event and inviting industry.

“We scheduled this Collider during Fed Supernova because a lot of industry attends,” said James Foutz, AFWERX Spark Collider program lead. “The companies invited to each Collider are selected through a Partnership Intermediary Agreement to ensure they are focused in the technology area proposed during the event.”

The problem for this Collider was proposed by the Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center and aligned with Operational Imperatives five, resilient basing, and seven, readiness to deploy and fight. AFIMSC’s mission is to deliver globally integrated installation and mission support to enhance warfighter readiness and lethality.

“Our problems revolve around austere locations, installations at deployed locations, energy resiliency and security forces, just to name a few,” said Dustin Dickens, AFIMSC innovation program manager. “What sets Collider events apart from other industry engagements is AFWERX has a network of industry partners to connect and collaborate with our individual user sets to make the experience more appropriate to fit our functional gaps.”

The morning portion of the Collider featured presentations from Air Force leaders to industry attendees on the need to reduce the logistical footprint required to sustain operations in the future. The afternoon was an opportunity for industry to talk with those leaders about their technologies and possibly find solutions.

“The Colliders are great for making connections,” said Sean Luangrath, an attendee and CEO of a portable solar generator small business. “I attended a previous Collider and our technology solution resulted in an AFWERX phase two contract award. Today, I just had a conversation with Air Force leaders that are very interested in another one of our technologies.”

Foutz said the goal moving forward is to have in-person Colliders every quarter while also providing a virtual option to maximize attendance. He said Air Force organizations can reach out with their problems via or contact your local spark cell or innovation lead.

“Please get in touch with AFWERX and we can set up an event like this to support whatever problem areas you are trying to get after.”