AFWERX Challenge Process

Connecting innovators from all sectors in a growing ecosystem that positively impacts Airmen agility and U.S. strategic advantage. Timelines below are approximate.

  • 1. Conduct introductory discussions to learn about the Challenge Topic.
  • 2. Perform background research on the Challenge Topic.
  • 3. Facilitate a Scoping Session to define key planning elements for the Challenge Definition Workshop, including:
    • Purpose
    • Product
    • Preparation
    • Participation
    • Principles
    • Process
    • Place
  • 4. Conduct outreach over 4-6 weeks to solicit participation by SMEs from industry, academia and the military in the Challenge Definition Workshop.
  • 5. Design and facilitate a two-day, face-to-face, Challenge Definition Workshop that enables a core constituency of SMEs from industry, academia and the military to define the challenge, including:
    • Opportunity/Problem Definition
    • Solution Component Identification
    • Open Innovation Challenge Specifics
  • 6. Design and launch a Crowdsourcing Campaign using the design elements from the Challenge Definition Workshop.
  • 7. Conduct advertising and marketing across multiple channels so we can attract the best of the private sector and academia to submit solutions.
  • 8. Review and select submissions from solution providers that you would like to meet in person.
  • 9. Communicate to selected solution providers regarding the Showcase Event.
  • 10. Plan, prepare, design and facilitate a one- or two-day event that is open to the public and brings together selected solution providers with potential military customers to discover, discuss and iterate thinking regarding potential uses of their solutions.
  • 11. Plan, prepare, design and facilitate a one- or two-day event that is open to the public and brings together selected solution providers with potential military customers to discover, discuss and iterate thinking regarding potential uses of their solutions.
  • 12. Award contracts to selected solution providers to continue development and/or complete solutions for the benefit of the warfighter.
  • 13. Document the performance of the AFWERX Challenge via key process metrics and outcomes.
  • 14. Recognize the positive impact in efficiency and/or effectiveness from new solutions.

AFWERX is a product of the U.S. Air Force (USAF), directly envisioned by former Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson. Her vision of AFWERX was to solve some of the toughest challenges that USAF faces through innovation and collaboration amongst our nation’s top subject matter experts. The world is changing quickly — new technologies, new threats and new opportunities. AFWERX taps into the power of creativity and empowers intentional innovation that unleashes emergent approaches for the warfighter through a community of entrepreneurs, industry, academia, investors, and other non-traditional contributors. AFWERX can bring together our nation’s best and brightest to collaborate, innovate, fabricate, and present accelerated results to USAF to better serve our #1 customer: the warfighter and operators who keep us safe.

AFWERX Challenge is managed by the AFWERX Vegas team, which is operated by a private company funded by USAF to support outreach to the business and academic community.

Frequently Asked Questions

AFWERX Challenge is the combination of the defense, academic, startup, private sector and small business worlds to collaborate through challenges and live events.
Established in 2017 by the Secretary of the Air Force and reporting to the Vice Chief of Staff of the Air Force, AFWERX is a catalyst for agile Air Force engagement across industry, academia and non-traditional contributors to create transformative opportunities and foster an Air Force culture of innovation. The ultimate aim is to solve problems and enhance the effectiveness of the Air Force.
AFWERX is an initiative of the Air Force to fast track solutions and enhance capabilities through deployed solutions. AFWERX Challenge is one of many ‘products’ created by AFWERX to drive change by bringing people together to collide and collaborate.
USAF founded AFWERX as an innovation catalyst and community connector both inside and outside the Air Force. USAF and AFWERX both have access to specific innovation funding in addition to the hundreds of millions of dollars spent with existing contractors that we could instead spend working with new companies and teams with alternate solutions.
Ideas submitted should contain only public information. The challenge is open for anyone to view, so each team needs to protect its own IP until they get to a stage where it makes sense to sign non-disclosure agreements.
We recommend you draft your responses in a shared document so you can collaborate with your team before making your final submission.
The main benefits of entering this challenge are:
  • Get feedback from community members on your idea that may help to enhance your product/idea
  • Be in the running to get an invitation to work with AFWERX, which could lead to funding opportunities and even a USAF contract
  • Networking opportunities
Yes, the challenge is open to anyone. We would also love your feedback on the ideas submitted.
The challenge does not guarantee nor imply any future contracts with any of the armed forces. However, for those solutions that have promise, USAF and other branches have innovation funding allocated towards exploring solutions and partnerships. Compelling solutions will be explored.
There is no monetary prize for this portion of the challenge. The main “prize” will be the exposure your idea will get among military decision-makers and investors. If your idea gets their attention, it could lead to a future contract or funding.