DECEMBER 1, 2022 – The sixth annual Spark Tank 2023, or ST23, quarterfinals were held Nov. 9, at the Basic Research Innovation and Collaboration Center in Arlington, with the top 15 ideas selected to advance to semifinals. The Spark Tank competition identifies, supports and celebrates high-performing Department of the Air Force innovators who submit and rally around ideas through the Guardians and Airmen Innovation Network, or GAIN, a force-wide crowdsourcing platform.
“Spark Tank’s democratized and iterative vetting processes are how we determine the top 15 ideas,” said William Brou Gautier, Spark Tank director. “We want to ensure the ideas that have the best potential for significant positive change in advancing military capability are provided a path to DAF advocacy and becoming a reality.”
The venture capital style pitch to investment Spark Tank competition is co-sponsored and organized by the Office of the Deputy Under Secretary of the Air Force, Management, or SAF/MG, and AFWERX. The event featured a hybrid panel of in-person and virtual subject matter experts from across the Air Force who discussed the merits of each pitch.
During the 78-day innovation incubation period, Guardians and Airmen submitted 235 ideas on wide-ranging topics designed to improve maintenance, operations, communications, medical and support activities. Originating from enlisted and officer intrapreneurs, ideas came from almost every major and field command. Air Combat Command led the way with 44 submissions.
New this year, and in support of the DAF’s digital transformation culture shift initiative, ST23 launched with a goal of 100% digital execution.
The program accomplished this by leveraging GAIN’s smart technology operating platform to streamline campaign communications between coordinators, moderators and intrapreneurs. Then, to ensure the fastest and most asynchronous coordination, the campaign management team created a Microsoft Teams collaboration forum for internal communications.
“The combination of Spark Tank operations’ digital workflows provided real-time updates, reduced the risk of outdated campaign or idea information, prevented locking data in email messages, and significantly reduced the coordination time gap between identifying concerns and devising solutions,” said Crystal Ortiz, SAF/MG Spark Tank operations action officer.
This year, Guardians and Airmen participated in dual peer review phases leveraging GAIN’s PairWise and TokenVoting technology.
“These techniques allowed us to review each idea and vote on which were the most deserving to move forward,” said Aaron Beebe, AFWERX Spark Cell program manager and Spark Tank production manager. “The net result of peer review phases was that 35 distinct ideas emerged with clear support,” Beebe added. “Of those, we saw trends around adopting emerging technology to solve emerging problems and a reoccurring need for finding better tools to improve existing techniques and workflows.”
Last year, Spark Tank created a new Just Do It, or JDI, category. The team extended that concept this year by identifying a list of high fidelity, simple ideas.
While no longer in the competition for financial support, all JDIs are tracked to ensure the concepts are vetted by the owning DAF headquarters functional owner, the lead command responsible for the capability and its sustainment, and the capability delivery teams or program offices who must coordinate on and approve program kit, Ortiz said. Like in ST22, 10 innovations this year were designated as JDI that will challenge the velocity the Spark Tank program can accelerate change at scale.
The top 15 ideas will be pitched Dec. 7, at the ST23 semifinals, an event co-chaired by the vice chief of staff of the Air Force and the vice chief of Space Operations, U.S. Space Force. The finals will be held during the 2023 Air and Space Forces Association’s Warfare Symposium, March 8, 2023, in Aurora, Colorado.
The 2023 Spark Tank quarterfinalists are:
- *Accelerate the Killchain – “Spinning the Killweb.”
- *Accelerated Development of Multi-Capable Airmen.
- *Agile Content Evolution and Deployment.
- *Advanced Maintenance & Troubleshooting Suite.
- Air Force Materiel Command Test Aircraft Problem – VR “Just in Time.”
- *Airspace Optimization Application.
- *Astro Psychiatric Artificial Intelligence.
- *B-52 Nuclear Arming Components: Mobile Shielded Coding Enclosure.
- Base Comm Out Back Up Plan.
- **Boom Cover Removal and Installation Tool.
- Contested Degraded Environment Comm Suite.
- **ELIMINATING “GHOSTS” FROM RESERVE UNITS
- Enterprise Analytics Platform.
- **Fighting Falcon F-16 Horizontal Stabilizer Training Aid
- Foreign Object Damage.
- Improving Training Program with Learning Management System.
- **In-house Automated Solar Powered Camera Cleaning System.
- **Infiniguard Corrosion Prevention Solution.
- *Infrastructure in an AR World.
- **Medium Reach Articulating Staircase Type II MX Stand “B7” Safety Step.
- *Mercury West – Emulated Signal/Target Training Network.
- *OpsLab Automated Scheduling.
- *Project Kinetic Cargo Sustainment.
- *Project OREGON TRAIL.
- **Project Patient Airlift (formerly Stanchion Litter System).
- *Real-time Asset Management System.
- **Robotics Universal Remote.
- *Space Bot – AI Platform for Space.
- **Space Force Crew Scheduler.
- Tactical Ballistic Applied Geolocation System.
- The Next Revolution in Maintenance Information Systems.
- **Transformed Entry Authorization List System.
- Turbo Requirements Generator.
- *Vital Beacon for Personnel Recovery.
- Wearable Edge Compute for Artificial Intelligence Aided Target Development.
Note: An asterisk (*) denotes selection as a semifinalist and a double asterisk (**) indicates JDI ideas. No asterisk indicates the idea did not advance to the semifinals.
SAF/MG is responsible for the overall supervision of matters pertaining to Air Force and Space Force performance management of an approximately 700,000-member workforce organized into 160 occupational specialties working at over 200 locations worldwide. Serving as the DAF deputy chief management officer, chief risk officer, performance improvement officer, and category management accountable official, SAF/MG represents the secretary or undersecretary at Department of Defense performance management forums and the Office of Management and Budget Category Management Leadership Council.
This secretariat office is responsible for providing direction and policy regarding DAF performance and risk management using performance goals and metrics; developing and implementing Continuous Improvement and Innovation policy, education and training programs; building and managing productivity investment management systems for tracking effectiveness of CI2-based changes; and support service requirements, including execution of program action directive and program guidance letter processes. As director of business management, SAF/MG leads the DAF’s Office of Business Transformation in accordance with U.S. law and related DOD policies. This role provides Secretariat representation for the Business Mission Area Council overseeing Defense Business Systems performance within the DAF, assures information technology investment planning, control, and data management practices are consistent with DOD and DAF strategic plans and guidance, and certifies all covered systems’ technical complexity, implementation planning and auditability.
The Air Force Research Laboratory, is the primary scientific research and development center for the Air Force. AFRL plays an integral role in leading the discovery, development, and integration of affordable warfighting technologies for our air, space, and cyberspace force. With a workforce of more than 11,500 across nine technology areas and 40 other operations across the globe, AFRL provides a diverse portfolio of science and technology ranging from fundamental to advanced research and technology development. For more information, visit: https://afresearchlab.com/.
AFWERX is an Air Force Research Laboratory Directorate that connects innovators across government, industry and academia. Through innovation and collaboration with our nation’s top subject-matter experts, AFWERX harnesses the power of ingenuity of internal talent while expanding technology, talent and transition partnerships for rapid and affordable commercial and military capability. Additional information is available at https://www.afwerx.com/.
Deputy Under Secretary of the Air Force, Management