AFWERX has launched IGNITE, a platform where defense users can search for and easily interact with thousands of small businesses that have secured previous U.S. Department of the Air Force Small Business Innovation Research or Small Business Technology Transfer awards. This controlled line of communication between technology developers and end users will strengthen the integration and adoption of these technologies, resulting in increased collaboration between government and industry.

"IGNITE is an important step to connect the broader Department of Defense ecosystem,” said Col. Elliott Leigh, AFWERX director and chief commercialization officer for the DAF. “It enables Airmen, Guardians and joint forces to quickly identify and access innovative technologies and unleash American ingenuity to solve pressing defense problems."

IGNITE was built on top of the existing VISION platform used by thousands of DoD users. VISION, launched in October 2021, was a first-of-its-kind ecosystem that used centralized data to make connections for government users, allowing them to see across their organization and innovate more efficiently by reducing duplication of effort and promoting faster adoption of replicable solutions.

The AFWERX Spark division became involved in the creation of VISION when Spark Cells across multiple major commands assisted with testing and feedback for improvements. Currently, more than 5,200 defense users across every branch of the DoD are benefitting from the platform.

AFWERX wanted to get the small business community involved, which led to the creation of IGNITE through a Phase III award with Mobilize, a Colorado-based data analytics and artificial intelligence company. Businesses that have received DAF SBIR and STTR awards within the past five years will be automatically loaded into IGNITE and only need to log in to claim and populate their storefront. IGNITE then enables small business users to interface with defense users already active on the VISION platform and tap into sole-source justifiable capabilities.

IGNITE has been in development and testing for nearly a year, and since launching in July, it has provided defense users safe access to a universe of pre-vetted companies within a secure, Common Access Card-enabled environment.

Lievano, who assisted with the IGNITE testing, explains, “When you submit your problem as the individual user, VISION is now giving you options of companies that could potentially work to get the solution. That is an amazing capability that will save so much time.”

IGNITE is built with intentional communication guardrails allowing defense users to adjust small business access depending on current defense needs (i.e. project, budget, timing, etc.), while creating opportunities for businesses to develop quality connections to potential future customers and end users.