SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. -- Scott Air Force Base’s innovation hub, Elevate, received Air Force approval to be designated a defense laboratory Jan. 6.. The approval marks Scott as the first Air Force innovation cell to become an official defense lab for technology transfer purposes.
The designation as a defense lab allows the Elevate team to partner with educational institutions under an Education Partnership Agreement in sharing resources, equipment, and information. EPAs, however, do not allow the sharing of funds.
According to the Air Force Tech Transfer Handbook, “EPAs were created to help increase national technological and economic competitiveness by promoting increased interactions between defense labs and educational institutions. From the Air Force perspective, EPAs help cultivate, recruit, and diversify the Air Force workforce; help develop critically needed new technology; harness outside assistance with technology transfer and commercialization; and enhance an Air Force’s Activity’s visibility and image in the community…”
Capt. Austin Duncan, Elevate’s deputy innovation officer, said, “The biggest win for Scott AFB is that the designation as a defense lab will permit us to engage in EPAs with local universities. These EPAs allow us to collaborate with these universities using equipment and manpower where we normally do not have access.”
Duncan said the Elevate team’s next step is to partner with Southern Illinois University Edwardsville on the first EPA.
“Once we enter into that agreement, we will have access to their facilities and staff to work on potential problem sets that are outside of our organic capacity. The university, likewise, will be able to have access to some of the equipment we have,” said Duncan.
After working through this first EPA with SIUE, Duncan said the Elevate team would seek similar partnerships with other universities in the local area.
The designation as a defense lab is one of the first major accomplishments of the new Elevate team and builds upon the work of the 375th Air Mobility Wing’s previous chief innovation officer Capt. Brad Worley.
The Elevate team has grown since Worley’s departure from Scott AFB last fall and is now made up of four Airmen. Led by Maj. Adam Wallace as the wing’s new chief innovation officer, the Elevate team includes 1st. Lt. Thomas Goetze and Tech. Sgt. Brandon Barnes in addition to Duncan.
Beyond working to get the Air Force’s approval to become a defense lab and establishing an EPA with SIUE, the Elevate team is also refreshing the wing’s innovation strategy.
“Our primary goal in 2021 is to take a focused, organizational approach with the 375 AMW units by coordinating at the squadron level to take a small team of personnel and give them training on innovation and project management techniques,” said Duncan. “We want them to apply that training in their squadrons. We hope that this will spark a bottom up desire to innovate.”
Empowering Airmen to innovate aligns with Air Force senior leadership priorities. In his message to Airmen, Accelerate Change or Lose, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Q. Brown, Jr., wrote, “…Most importantly, we must empower our incredible Airmen to solve any problem. We must place value in multi-capable and adaptable team builders, and courageous problem solvers that demonstrate value in diversity of thought, ingenuity, and initiative.”
Brown continued, “…Today’s U.S. Air Force, and its assumed dominance, was shaped by highly innovative and courageous Airmen throughout our storied history. Seeing the need for change, they forged new technologically-advanced force structures and developed novel operational concepts that paved the way for the many successes we have achieved. We can do it again…”
As a member of the Elevate team, Goetze is motivated to help Airmen innovate. “Innovation is important because the operational landscape changes frequently. Airmen have the tools to innovate every day by revolutionizing their day-to-day routine.
“We mustn’t be afraid of change because it’s scary or hard,” said Goetze. “We should always be willing to experiment, explore, and adjust our perspectives because embracing change may lead us to a better, faster, or more efficient way to accomplish the mission.”