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Increase Innovation Opportunities

Marc Vandeveer quoteGoal Leader: Marc Vandeveer, AFIMSC Chief Innovation Officer

Goal Description: The aim of this goal is to empower Airmen across the organization to find better ways of accomplishing their mission. We need to create a culture, provide the tools and training, and make it easier for anyone in our workforce to navigate that ecosystem successfully. There are amazing amounts of resources and funding our enterprise can tap into and it will continue to grow.

LOE 3 Goal 2 Objectives:

  • G2.A — Develop – Shepherd ideas through innovation into implementation

    PROGRESS TO DATE: The AFIMSC Ventures team has completed all the acquisition processes for the 2021 AFIMSC Innovation Rodeo and is in the process of moving funding for all eight innovation rodeo projects. We currently have our three mobile apps – What’s Up, Wing Feedback and Kinderspot – in various stages of testing across 16 installations. 
  • G2.B — Capability – Advance engineer, Services, and Defender Sparks

    PROGRESS TO DATE: The Air Force Civil Engineer Center and Air Force Security Forces Center Sparks participated in the AFWERX Spark Summit Training event in June at the AFWERX Vegas Hub. The three day training session with dedicated breakout sessions enabled direct feedback and collaboration with all Air Force Major Command Sparks and over 40 installation sparks on opportunities, processes and challenges within these functional capabilities. We continue to grow our outreach efforts, projects and in-house capability. 
  • G2.C — Community – Scale outreach events

    PROGRESS TO DATE: Our next Innovation Summit is Aug. 3-4 in San Antonio. A joint collaborative effort between AFIMSC, AFWERX, the Air Force Personnel Center and Air Education and Training Command, the event will bring innovation collaboration opportunities to an expanded installation and mission support audience. 

    This year’s theme is Accelerate Change. With a target audience of installation and MAJCOM Sparks, the summit will feature guest speakers from Air Force Ventures, AFWERX, Platform One, Tech Port San Antonio, National Security Innovation Network, Defense Innovation Unit, Air Force Gaming, the Business and Enterprise Systems Product Innovation office, AFIMSC, AFPC, the AFCEC Geospatial Integration Office and more. There will also be a vendor fair with participants from Microsoft, UIPath, BAH, Mobilize, Aerial Applications, Athenium, 3rd Insight, Clarity, Oddball, Renew Robotics and many others.  
  • G2.D — Collaboration – Grow collaboration opportunities

    PROGRESS TO DATE: As the country reopens post-pandemic, we will re-pursue establishing a lease space in Geekdom, San Antonio’s Innovation Collaboration Center, in the fall. This three story facility is a hub of innovation, startup companies and collaborative tools. AFIMSC will have a dedicated office and parking available for I&MS professionals across AFIMSC and JBSA to utilize for their collaboration opportunities. These innovative spaces motivate Airmen to think differently and the interaction with startup companies and their different perspectives is infectious and motivating!  

What can you tell us about your objectives?
Our objectives are to grow opportunities – both in ideas submitted, awarded through Small Business Innovation Research or the Secretary of the Air Force Acquisition’s “Big Bets” in their STRATFI program – and collaborate across bases and their squadron innovation funds. The more we educate and train the enterprise on these fantastic opportunities, the more we empower Airmen to be successful!

We’re also looking at establishing an innovation collaboration space in downtown San Antonio in cooperation with Geekdom. They have three floors in the middle of downtown and access to startup companies, senior mentors and meeting rooms. COVID-19 has slowed acquiring this space, but we hope to have it up and running in 2021.

What positive impact has your progress had on Airmen, commanders and/or the mission so far?
Smartlockers was 2021 AFIMSC Innovation Rodeo Winner in February and Robins Air Force Base, Georgia, has made incredible strides! Smartlockers will allow companies like Amazon, Walmart or Target to deliver boxes directly to lockers placed next to the dorms and Airmen receive an email or text alert that it has been delivered! 

The installation civil engineer groups, mission support groups, force support squadrons, and postal and contracting specialists are doing amazing work and siting approval is complete, the requirements package is out on the street and they are receiving bids. This could be a submission that goes from idea to in operation in record time! Benefits are Airmen who work night or swing shifts have better access to their mail and the Postal office workload is reduced as deliveries now go directly to the end customer! 

Why is Increasing Innovation Opportunities important to AFIMSC?
The Air Force was built on innovation, but it also has much institutionalized bureaucracy. Our goal, and our innovation office, plays an important role in breaking down those roadblocks and helping our Airmen realize their great ideas. There is an entire ecosystem and coalition of the motivated that are driven by forward progress; harnessing that energy is important to AFIMSC.

What challenges have you encountered along the way and how have you adjusted for them?
Machine learning is on the cutting edge of innovation and we have two photogrammetry efforts to assist with automating roof inspections. As we’ve gone through the process of working with two independent companies, we found one is better at the machine learning algorithm and the other better at collecting and processing imagery. As these projects matured, we presented their progress to a panel of infrastructure and roofing subject matter experts to evaluate the 20 criteria that goes into the roof inspection process. To date, either company can only achieve six of these criteria, however they would be better together! 

The AFIMSC team and Engineer Spark are working to setup a joint effort and pursue AFWERX’s new Tactical Funding Increase (TACFI) program to make more progress. The remarkable thing about this is it can be entirely funded by industry venture capital. We can continue to progressing toward the solution, but don’t have to dig into our organizations funds to maintain progress! 

How does your goal support AFMC, Air Force and National Defense Priorities?
Our people drive our innovation efforts across the enterprise. Their ideas are helping develop mobile apps our Airmen strongly desire and developing drones with advanced sensors and machine learning to deliver requirements better, faster and cheaper. We currently have efforts ongoing in every part of our enterprise from environmental, infrastructure, force protection, contracting and acquisition, robotics process automation, childcare even a digital landscaping effort directly supporting AFIMSC Strategy.

How are you measuring success?
Our STRATFI project with Aerial Applications is a great example to measure success. Currently, we use expensive multi-million dollar contracts to assess habitat for endangered species. Our 4-year effort will replace those contracts with drones that can do it for tens of thousands, and do it quicker and with greater accuracy.

We have multiple efforts going on in Small Business Innovation Research and we’ve been able to add outside funding to our $3 million internal budget. To date, we have secured $63 million in matching funds from other government sources or venture capital.

What are your next steps?
We are laser focused on executing and scaling our existing innovation initiatives and looking forward to the expanded joint Innovation Summit in August. Our inaugural event in 2020 was a big success.

We are also using new acquisition methods to learn as much as possible within the ecosystem and help educate the enterprise and streamline the path to success an Airman must take. By the end of the year, we will have incredible depth in all the major avenues of execution: SBIR Phase I, II, II; enterprise sourcing squadrons, commercial solution openings, STRAFI, TACFI, local contracting and GSA. We’re also looking to start up our own innovation indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity, or IDIQ, contract to make execution even faster! 

(Current as of July 8, 2021)