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WASHINGTON: The US Air Force is encouraging commercial startups in allied countries to bring innovative space tech to its attention for possible funding.
Technology areas being explored include space situational awareness, space data analytics, space communication, artificial intelligence (AI) and satellite servicing.
The innovation hub Techstars has launched a new industry accelerator focused on space and allied connectivity, Techstars Allied Space Accelerator. The Ministries of Defense of the Netherlands and Norway, and the Norwegian Space Agency are co-sponsoring the initiative.
Just like other Techstars efforts, the program tries to bring commercial firms and their cutting edge products into the defense world. But rather than physically bringing start-ups and potential military customers together in the same place, the Allied Space Accelerator is run as a virtual program.
Techstars currently has hubs in Boston and Los Angeles.
“The new mentorship-driven accelerator will focus on the next generation of space technologies with a concentration on companies in the commercial space industry. The accelerator will run similar to other Techstars accelerator programs, but will operate in a predominantly virtual manner that will not require participating companies to relocate to a physical hub for the duration of the 13-week program, a necessity for most of Techstars’ accelerators,” a company press release explains.
“Participating companies will partake in the program through a heavily digital experience complemented by three 1-week on-site visits with the accelerator’s governmental partners,” the release adds. “During these in-person week-long sessions, founders will convene to work together, build camaraderie, connect with mentors and foster relationships with the partners.”
The Techstars Allied Space Accelerator will run for 13 weeks from June-September, 2020. The program is accepting applications starting today through March 3, 2020.
The goal is to equip startups to be able to pitch the Air Force and allied governments ideas for products and services as a first step towards a DoD contract. Usually, Techstars and other innovation hub proteges are funded via the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grants and Other Transactional Authority (OTA) money rather than via traditional contracting.
The Air Force effort to broaden its use of non-traditional funding methods is being championed by Acquisition czar Will Roper, who has personally been involved in most of the service’s recent pitch day processes including the one at Techstars in May.
The Techstars Allied Space Accelerator effort follows the Air Force’s first Space Pitch Days, held in San Francisco Nov. 5-6. During that meeting, the service awarded $22.5 million in $750,000 SBIR increments to 30 companies.