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News | Feb. 10, 2022

Unique partnership connects SBIR awardees with Hanscom directorates

By Jessica Casserly 66th Air Base Group Public Affairs

HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. – The third iteration of The U.S. Air Force Lab with MassChallenge program, an initiative designed to increase non-traditional participation in Small Business Innovative Research program opportunities, kicked off virtually Feb. 9.

Atolla Tech, Beast Code, Blue Cloak, C360, Exo-Space, 1st1 Technologies, GhostWave, Skyloom Global, Synaptic Security and Tachyon Transfer make up the third cohort to benefit from the specialized mentorship and support offered by MassChallenge and Air Force experts. To date, this program has supported a total of 20 Phase I SBIR awardees, with 75 percent of the participants transitioning to a Phase II award.

Jacqueline Icso, the Innovation Program manager for Program Executive Office Digital, said she’s excited to see what partnerships will result from this new cohort.

“The Air Force Labs program is an excellent way to connect startups with great technologies to the directorates on Hanscom,” she said. “MassChallenge has a unique way of mentoring these startups to help them achieve a Phase II award and PEO Digital will help with mentorship meetings throughout this third cycle of the program.”

The cohort of ten startups was carefully selected by a diverse group of 43 volunteer judges, said Vijay Sekhara, director of Partnership Delivery for MassChallenge.

“In building the Air Force Labs program, MassChallenge leveraged its unique, community-driven approach to convene the sponsoring PEOs, corporate partners, startup alumni, and industry experts to review and support the cohort selection process,” he said. “The diversity of our judges – including the variety of backgrounds and expertise – brings multiple perspectives to the table from which the best cohorts are built.”

Joe Wotton, a program manager for the Cyber Resiliency Office for Weapons Systems, agreed that this partnership with MassChallenge is connecting CROWS and Hanscom directorates to worthwhile, innovative technologies.

“Through this relationship, the Hanscom Innovation Team is able to evaluate these startups and their tech for potential application to Air Force programs, while also considering cyber resiliency impacts,” he said.

Startups in the current cohort were selected for their potential to help Hanscom directorates and other Air Force programs in areas such as artificial intelligence, unmanned aircraft systems identification and classification capabilities, predictive analytics, data processing and other needs.

Sekhara said the program removes the typical barriers of entry for early-stage, dual-use startups so they can create and develop meaningful connections with the government, community partners and end-users.

“Going into our third Air Force Labs program, MassChallenge is looking at the best ways to extend support for startups by providing resources for each well beyond the program close, regardless of Phase II SBIR award, through our global network,” he said. “Of the 20 startups from the previous two cohorts, 14 were awarded Phase II SBIRs and MassChallenge hopes to see this stellar track record continue.”

The third cohort is scheduled to complete the five-week program with a virtual demo event March 16. To learn more about the U.S. Air Force Lab with MassChallenge partnership, visit