The Department of Defense (DoD) innovation ecosystem provides a collection of many organizations seeking to enhance the innovation and entrepreneurial activities of individuals and companies working on projects of interest to the United States' national security.
The DoD innovation ecosystems include organizations working within and in partnership with the following military, governmental, and private organizations: Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) Innovation Organizations, Air Force, Army, Navy, and non-Department of Defense innovation organizations.
Organizations participating within the Department of Defense Innovation Ecosystem can be categorized into several categories based on their purposes, such as business accelerators, contest and competition organizations, business networking organizations, funding providers, government contracting authorities, and business incubators.
Innovation ecosystem overview
Aerospace Federally Funded Research and Development Center
U.S. Air Force
Aerospace Federally Funded Research and Development Center is a research and development center that commits to the development of space-related science and engineering.
Federally funded R&D center
U.S. Air Force
AFWERX is a technology accelerator focused on improving the culture and innovation within the United States Air Force.
Accelerator, contest and competition organization, business networking organization, government contracting authority, partnership intermediary agreement
AiDA is a platform that was developed in the MITRE Innovation Program (MIP).
Air Force Research Laboratory
U.S. Air Force
Air Force Research Laboratory is a scientific research organization operated by the United States Air Force and Space Force.
Government contracting authority
Air Force Techstars Accelerator
U.S. Air Force
Air Force Techstars Accelerator is TechStars accelerator focused on developing technology and companies serving the U.S. Air Force.
Accelerator, funding provider
Accelerators are structured, focused, and time-sensitive programs where start-ups or ideas receive mentorship, education, and networking resources from industry experts.
The Air Force Techstars Accelerator states in its mission that accelerators "see opportunities, take risks, and clear the path for entire industries. We help grow ideas into world-changing businesses."
Business incubator programs assist young and new start-up companies to build and grow the business. Incubators can provide management, training, office space, and more.
SOFWERX provides industrial working space for innovative ideas to be developed. The workshops host various industrial tools that can be difficult for a young start-up to acquire, and additionally, provides workshops and training.
Contest and competition organizations arrange innovation contests and competitions to solve military problems. The winner of the contest or competition will be provided with funding and support resources to further develop prototyping solutions that may end up being used within the DoD.
Business networking organizations exist to provide resources and connections to start-up companies. These organizations may host conferences or networking events where industry professionals gather to discuss, and potentially collaborate, ideas with one another.
Government contract authorities are allowed to enter legally binding, contract-based relationships with other organizations and distribute payment and funds on behalf of the U.S. Government.
The Defense Innovation Marketplace connects public industry experts with the United States Department of Defense and allows the two to collaborate on technological advancement. Additionally, the marketplace offer initiatives that allow companies to recover some funds that were put into products if the product is to be pursued by the DoD. Acquisitions and other types of funding occur within the Defense Innovation Marketplace.
The Office of the Secretary of Defense Innovation organized a board to select companies and organizations that best meet the needs of the Department of Defense in regards to innovating technology as well as process and procedures. The Secretary of Defense currently uses these organizations to impact the Department of Defense.
Federally funded research and development centers are public-private partnerships between labs and the government. The research and development centers receive funding to conduct research for the U.S. Government. The labs can be independent or may have a university affiliation.
Funding providers provide the necessary financial support to start-ups or ideas for innovating the United States Department of Defense.
Public-private relationships are defined as relationships with companies in the public industries partnering with government-based programs to develop new technology, procedures, and more.
Partnership intermediary agreements are contracts or agreements between federal labs and other entities where there may be opportunities for technology exchanges or collaboration for joint projects.
An other transaction authority (OTA) is a relationship between a government sponsor and a collection of traditional and non-traditional vendors, non-profit organizations, and academia aligned to a technology. This could include specific technology domains, such as the cyber domain, space domain, undersea domain, and propulsion domain, to name a few examples. These organizations, with their expertise in a technology domain, work to find innovative solutions for government technology challenges in the intended scope and purpose of other transactions.
The Technology Readiness Assessment (TRA) is a systematic and evidence-based process for evaluating the technological maturity of critical technologies (CTs), such as hardware, software, processes, or a combination thereof, that are vital to the performance of governmental systems or fulfillment of strategic government objectives or acquisition programs.
The Defense Grant and Agreement Regulatory System (DGARS) is the system set in place by the United States government for regulating the policies and procedures for awarding and administering DoD assistance and other non-procurement awards.
Through the accelerator and technology development grant programs associated with the Department of Defense's innovation ecosystem, programs such as SBIR/STTR, AFWERX, or the Air Force Research Laboratory, there are various funding opportunities and open calls or funding solicitations in specific technology applications or developments.
Open funding opportunities 2021
2021 ERDC Broad Agency Announcement
Engineer Research and Development Center
April 5, 2021
February 28, 2022
Advanced Scanning Optical Microscope (ASOM) Capability Expansion Prototype
Department of Defense
April 20, 2021
AFRL RV-RD Assistance Instruments Announcement
AFRL Kirtland AFB
December 20, 2018
December 19, 2023
AFRL-NM Tech Transfer and Education Outreach (STEM) Partnrship Intermediary Agreement
AFRL Kirtland AFB
February 2, 2017
February 8, 2022
AFRL/RXC Structural Materials Open BAA
Air Force Research Lab
September 20, 2018
September 20, 2023
AFVentures is the commercial investment arm of AFWERX and the Air Force with the purpose of developing pathways for commercial innovators and private capital to solve Air Force problems. The AFVentures runs an Open Topic that uses the SBIR/STTR budget to develop and adopt commercial solutions.
AFVentures Focus Areas ongoing 2021
Advanced Survivable Sensors - TRL 3
Aircraft Sanitation/Disinfection System
Chemical Biological Radioactive Nuclear (CBRN) Stimulants
Computational Fluid Dynamics for Rotational Detonation Rocket
Confined Space Fuel Tank Coating and Sealant Removal Method
10 U.S. Code § 2371 - Research projects: transactions other than contracts and grants
CCDC's road map to modernizing the Army: the network
Defense Innovation Board
Doing Business with the Department of Defense: A Toolkit for Defense Acquisition
Office of Industrial Policy
February 20, 2021