Researchers from the Air Force Research Laboratory Munitions Directorate (AFRL/RW) at Eglin AFB presented three technologies to a panel of business experts during the Defensewerx’s fifth Innovation Discovery Event (IDE) held May 23, 2017. Technologies presented included Tunable Mid-IR Laser Using Xe Filled Hollow-Core Fiber, Temporally Multiplexed Spectropolarmetric LADAR, and Cooperative Algorithms for Autonomous Quadrotor Exploration.
The IDE panel was comprised of serial entrepreneurs, angel investors, small business specialists and educators from the Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition, STEM Genesis, Venture Hive, TechFarms Capital, University of West Florida and Emerald Coast Science Center. Panelists brainstormed and prioritized more than 150 new applications, target markets and commercialization opportunities.
Modelled after the process developed at the Naval Surface Warfare Center-Crane in partnership with the University of Southern Indiana, the IDE offers inventors a venue to receive commercial feedback, hone technology descriptions and expand claims prior to submitting a patent disclosure. The setting resembles the popular TV show “Shark Tank”, but has a friendly and supportive atmosphere. Instead of grilling an entrepreneur to make a call on whether to invest in a company or not, panelists learn about a technology, then engage in a brainstorming exercise to identify applications in the commercial marketplace.
A team effort, the AFRL/RW Office of Research and Technology Application (ORTA) assists Defensewerx with presenter and panelist recruiting. TechLink (DoD Partnership Intermediary located in Bozeman, Montana) personnel facilitate the IDE and provide legal assistance to draft patent disclosures. The day before the IDE, separate meetings are scheduled where TechLink, Defensewerx and scientists/engineers discuss additional RW technologies of interest. These meetings allow researchers to obtain feedback without the time commitment of IDE participation.
The IDE isn’t the only tool AFRL/RW and Defensewerx use to increase the lab’s intellectual property portfolio.
The AFRL/RW ORTA participates in the “onboarding” process for scientists & engineers, exposing new researchers to the technology transfer process and benefits. For existing personnel, DI and ORTA personnel conduct an periodic internal road shows, educating AFRL/RW leadership, scientists and engineers about technology transfer. Defensewerx T2 personnel attend RW briefings and other events to develop personal relationships with the researchers.
Defensewerx is planning its sixth IDE for October 2017 and RW recently rolled out an Intellectual Property incentive program and has plans to install a patent wall of fame to showcase inventions before the close of FY2017. The combined efforts are yielding positive results; AFRL/RW patent disclosures are up 150% from FY2016 to FY2017, with three months remaining in FY2017.