Air Force Special Topics SBIRs Used as New Mechanism to Select PNT-Focused Cohort
Catalyst Accelerator will welcome the program’s second cohort with a public Kick-Off to be held Wednesday, October 3, 2018 at the Catalyst Campus for Technology and Innovation in downtown Colorado Springs. A defense and national security industry accelerator headquartered at the Catalyst Campus, the AFRL/RV Catalyst Accelerator is the first accelerator program to be held in Southern Colorado. The official launch of this cohort on October 3 will welcome eight small businesses working on disruptive Positioning, Navigation and Timing (PNT) technologies.
Unique Collaborative Public-Private Partnership
Catalyst Accelerator is partnering with the Air Force Research Lab Space Vehicles Directorate, which serves as the Air Force’s “Center of Excellence” for space technology research and development; through the partnership with AFRL/RV, Catalyst Accelerator exposes the AFRL team and other government partners to commercial technologies with innovative solutions to warfighter needs.
Catalyst Accelerator’s mission is to promote technology advancement for the warfighter and to guide technology transfer between the government and the commercial market. Catalyst Accelerator is unique in that it represents a collaborative effort between public and private organizations, including AFRL/RV, Catalyst Campus, the Center for Technology, Research and Commercialization (C-TRAC), two Colorado Small Business Development Centers (SBDC) from Boulder and the Pikes Peak Region, and the Colorado Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC).
Introducing New Leadership
Changes in the management of the program will be announced at the Kick-Off. Former Catalyst Campus Program Director Dr. Rebecca Decker will be handing over the reins to KiMar Gartman of C-TRAC, most recently Program Manager for the Air Force’s successful AF CyberWorx innovation program. Ms. Gartman’s experience supporting AF CyberWorx is very closely aligned to the needs of the Accelerator, as pointed out by Dr. Decker, who said, “I am delighted to be passing the torch to KiMar, who is so uniquely qualified to oversee this program.”
Ms. Gartman is equally delighted to take on this new but familiar challenge: “I enjoy working collaboratively with the Air Force and I am excited to be a part of enriching the business knowledge of these companies and, through them, bringing rapid innovation to the warfighter!”
In addition to a new Program Director at the Catalyst Campus, AFRL/RV has announced a leadership change within their ranks: Lt Zoe Casteel will be taking over for Capt Jake Singleton as Program Manager for the Air Force. Lt Casteel is a graduate of the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, and participated extensively in the AF CyberWorx program as a cadet. Now an Air Force engineer, Lt Casteel’s interests and qualifications are ideal to take over as Program Manager of the Accelerator program for the AFRL/RV. Lt Casteel told us, “I’m super excited about rapidly acquiring new PNT technology for the warfighter!”
Accelerator Curriculum and Cohort Focus
Catalyst Accelerator employs the Economic Gardening-based curriculum provided by SBDC-Boulder. Two things that make Catalyst Accelerator unique among accelerator programs are its co-location in Colorado Springs with Air Force Space Command and potential rapid funding mechanisms, available through the government. By locating the Accelerator on the Catalyst Campus in proximity to the customer, the customer discovery process – wherein the participants gather an operational perspective from Air Force personnel and decisionmakers and come to understand their needs – is greatly reduced, from an average of two years in the typical government market to less than three months through Catalyst Accelerator.
The intensive 12-week program’s focus is to find innovative, non-defense, commercial solutions in Positioning, Navigation and Timing (PNT) that can be creatively adapted to meet Department of Defense stakeholders’ needs in a short timeframe and at a low cost. The Catalyst Accelerator will give the participating companies direct access to operational PNT experts and stakeholders from the United States Air Force and other government agencies, as well as from the Catalyst Campus, SBDC and PTAC national network of mentors, partners and investors.
Incoming Cohort Companies Selected via SBIRs
Catalyst Campus and our partners are excited to welcome Catalyst Accelerator’s incoming cohort of eight companies, who started the program on September 18th. Each company was carefully selected by AFRL/RV using the new Special Topics SBIRs (Small Business Innovation Research awards) as the application mechanism for entry into the cohort, with $50,000 in non-dilutive funding for each company chosen. This new fast-funding mechanism meant awards occurred within 60 days of application, as part of the Air Force’s commitment to acquiring new technologies rapidly.
The following companies were chosen to participate in the Catalyst Accelerator #CAPNT cohort:
Echo Ridge provides RF-focused research, product development, and intellectual property development to the Government and commercial marketplace through signal processing algorithm, software design, and hardware design and production. They are proposing a GPS-complementary receiver that takes in signals from other RF sources to provide PNT in GPS-unavailable environments.
PreTalen, circa 2007, is a woman-owned small business focused on providing expert systems engineering support for space, navigation, electronic warfare and cyber security. PreTalen is proposing a transmitter that can transmit multiple user-defined software-controlled navigation signals across the 1-2 GHz RF band.
esc Aerospace is a small, agile systems integrator with three lines of business: 1) mission critical systems for space applications; 2) Cyber Security and 3) “all things Drones.” They are proposing a PNT receiver that takes in signals from many different PNT sources to provide reliable PNT in denied/degraded environments.
Nokomis Inc. is dedicated to delivering advanced electromagnetic sensors and solutions. They are proposing a way to provide PNT signals in GPS-denied environments using the radio transmissions of commercial LEO satellites that are already in orbit. With their technology, Nokomis aims to be the leading provider of backup GPS service for military and commercial applications.
ColdQuanta brings expertise in ultra-cold matter engineering, UHV systems, and optomechanical systems for scientific and industrial applications. They are proposing a laser cooling chip-scale atomic clock for GPS-denied operational environments. Their clock can be deployed on air or land platforms. Commercialization ideas include communication networks, transportation systems, power grid control, and the financial sector.
NOVAA is a startup developing sensing and navigation solutions for the most challenging environments. They are proposing digital beamforming and machine learning assisted mapping of multi-path environments.
Third Insight’s ECHO software app gives commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) drones the ability to navigate autonomously in GPS-denied environments, while providing real-time 3D imaging and situational awareness to remote operators. They are proposing 3D positional tracking and mapping in GPS-denied/degraded environment using an “intelligent body camera” that creates a predictive real time mapping of the environment. Commercial applications include SWAT teams, fire departments, first responders, etc.
Braxton Technologies LLC develops and delivers Commercial Off-the-Shelf (COTS) products to outfit an entire satellite operations center, including command and control, simulation, flight dynamics, enterprise class scheduling and resource optimization, and front-end processors. Braxton delivers ground control segments (GCS) for various satellite missions and flight experiments. They are proposing an augmentation to their GCS work to insert software defined radio (SDR) PNT transmitters and receivers into their “FlashMAPTM” architecture, a play on the social media concept of “Flash Mobs,” to provide access to PNT information in GPS-degraded or -denied environments.
ABOUT AFRL SPACE VEHICLES DIRECTORATE CATALYST ACCELERATOR
The AFRL Space Vehicles Directorate Catalyst Accelerator is a defense and national security industry accelerator, headquartered on the Catalyst Campus in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The Accelerator’s mission is to promote technology advancement for the warfighter and guide technology transfer from the government to the commercial market and vice versa. Catalyst Accelerator partners with the Center for Technology, Research and Commercialization (C-TRAC), Colorado Small Business Development Centers (SBDC) of Boulder and the Pikes Peak Region, and Colorado Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC) to provide a robust, mentor-driven curriculum for Accelerator teams. Visit www.cataystaccelerator.space for more information.
ABOUT CATALYST CAMPUS FOR TECHNOLOGY AND INNOVATION
Catalyst Campus for Technology and Innovation is a research and development campus focused on aerospace and defense technologies headquartered in downtown Colorado Springs, Colorado. The vision of Catalyst Campus is to create an economic development “cluster” to expand the aerospace and defense industrial base in Southern Colorado through a collaborative infrastructure platform that supports entrepreneurs and small businesses. This unique, cluster environment stimulates economic growth and accelerates the development of new companies; promotes industry innovators, entrepreneurs, and start-ups; supports business training and workforce development; offers access to an applied research and development laboratory; and provides business development, support services and venture capital investment to accelerate innovation and the commercialization of technologies. Visit www.cataystaccelerator.space for more information.