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Phoenix Spark enables DoD, industry collaboration

TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. – Professionals from across industry, academia and government met with representatives from Travis Air Force Base’s Phoenix Spark program here Aug. 1 as part of an effort to connect external experts with problem sets faced by today’s warfighter.

The event, known as Phoenix Collider, brought together experts within the fields of robotics, artificial intelligence, 3-D printing technology, virtual reality, software development, business and mechanical engineering to meet face-to-face with Travis Airmen to garner firsthand accounts of “pain points.”

Phoenix Spark is a program modeled to bridge the challenges of rapid innovation at the unit-level while navigating the administrative hurdles of compliance that often impede the velocity of change.

“We are creating ways to innovate by allowing creative thinking to resonate with the youngest Airmen to improve processes and equipment,” said Col. John Klein 60th Air Mobility Wing commander.

With Travis strategically located in close proximity to Silicon Valley and several prestigious academic institutions, Phoenix Spark strives to leverage, develop relationships and play an active role in Northern California’s innovation ecosystem.

“We are trying to connect you, the experts, with interesting problem sets that the warfighter has identified,” said Maj. Tony Perez, 60th Operations Support Squadron and a founding member of the Phoenix Spark program, during the opening remarks. “After this event, our goal is to go beyond discussing the problems; we want to partner with you and actively work on solutions.”

The overarching concept Perez stressed during the collaboration was posed to the group in the form of a question, “How do we bring tomorrow’s tools to the warfighter today?”

The Phoenix Spark program and events like the Phoenix Collider are “the connective tissue” between Travis Airmen and experts who can realize solutions, said Perez.

Over the course of the day-long event, the group of more than 15 industry experts met with Airmen with a variety of specialties.

Topics and ideas presented to the group ranged in complexity, which aligns with the intent of Phoenix Spark. Innovation is not confined to large-scale projects and advanced technology; instead many encompass modest solutions to overcome day-to-day challenges.

Government and industry collaborations like Phoenix Collider are one of several avenues Phoenix Spark is pursuing to expand its footprint and develop solutions to enhance the lethality and efficiency of today’s warfighter.