Innovative partnership connects SBIR awardees with Air Force programs

  • Published
  • 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 concluded with a virtual demo event on Zoom March 16.

The event focused on the progress and connections the 10 startups in the accelerator’s third cohort made over the course of the five-week program. It also featured a keynote address from Pramod Raheja, CEO and co-founder of Airgility, Inc. and an Air Force Lab alumnus, as well as remarks from Cait Brumme, acting CEO of MassChallenge, and Brian Carr, the director of Innovation for the Command, Control, Communications, Intelligence and Networks Directorate at Hanscom.

During his remarks, Carr said he believes programs like this one are critical for the Air Force. 

“Efforts like this allow the government to interact with small businesses that have emerging tech or are developing novel approaches to existing problems,” he said. “The only way that the Air Force will continue to accelerate change is to understand how to leverage the capabilities that large and small businesses offer to bring the right capabilities into our programs of record.” 

Dean Zody, the CEO of GhostWave and a member of the cohort, said this program gave his company an opportunity to socialize their Phase I Small Business Innovative Research projects with the C3I&N and Digital Directorates, the Cyber Resiliency Office for Weapons Systems and the Hanscom Innovation Team.

“Without this cohort, we would not have had the visibility and access to potential Phase II partners that we have today,” Zody said. “The cohort also made GhostWave aware of newer programs such as the Rapid Defense Experimentation Reserve program.”

Brumme said facilitating mutually-beneficial connections between the Air Force and startups is a primary focus of this initiative.

“We know that now more than ever U.S. security and competitiveness is and will be increasingly tied to the extraordinary innovations happening in science and technology – in labs and also with early stage ventures,” she said. “We are extremely proud of our multi-year partnership with the U.S. Air Force to accelerate the connections between the fast-paced startup ecosystem and the needs of our service people.”

Mark Lorden, co-founder and chief business development officer of Exo-Space, and his team appreciated the unique opportunities available to them through the program.

“Through these [Air Force Lab] connections, Exo-Space has identified a number of new paths to explore in terms of further developing our relationship with the Department of the Air Force and integrating our space-rated data processing technology with key system operations,” he said.

While the formal program has concluded, the Hanscom directorates, CROWS and the Hanscom Innovation Team will continue to support the cohort as they finalize their Phase II SBIR proposals.

“Given how we’ve fine-tuned matching startup technologies to Air Force requirements, we expect higher levels of future memorandums of understanding, letters of support, and eventual follow-on awards from the appropriate program executive office acquisition entities,” said Joe Wotton, a program manager for CROWS.

To learn more about the U.S. Air Force Lab with MassChallenge partnership, visit