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    Second Annual Air Force HBCU/MSI Collider a Success, Aims Higher

    Second Annual Air Force HBCU/MSI Collider a Success, Aims Higher

    Photo By Marcus Morton | AFRL Small Business Senior Program Manager Ms. Anissa Lumpkin (left) and AFRL Small...... read more read more



    Story by Marcus Morton 

    Air Force Research Laboratory

    Article written by Jim Ingram - Making strides to improve upon things, yet never being satisfied with simply improving, is as true to the American ethos as it gets. It’s also one of the key principles that drives the Air Force Historically Black Colleges & Universities and Minority Serving Institutions (AF HBCU/MSI) Outreach Initiative as it strives to strengthen the Air Force Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer programs.
    The program is a $97+ million effort reaching out to HBCUs and MSIs with an opportunity to apply for funding of research and development through strategic partnerships with small businesses. The Air Force HBCU/MSI Outreach Initiative's Strategic Plan is to identify barriers that exist in the traditional Air Force Acquisition process; expand the use of Open Topic solicitations, while eliminating lengthy and cumbersome proposal processes; and to reach thinkers who might not have otherwise considered doing business with the U.S. government.
    To carry out that mission, the program originated the first ever Air Force HBCU/MSI Outreach Initiative Collider in 2020. Despite the challenges posed by Covid, the virtual event – a collaboration with Black Data Processing Associates (BDPA) – managed to successfully engage HBCUs/MSIs to support the development of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) capabilities through a series of speakers and panelists.
    Prior to 2020, the AFRL hadn’t received any Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) proposals involving an HBCU in more than five years. In Fiscal Year 2020, the HBCU Outreach Initiative helped orchestrate partnerships between five HBCUs and small businesses for STTR solicitations.
    A notable success, but the mission didn’t stop there. The Second Annual HBCU/MSI Outreach Initiative Collider, held August 12-13, 2021, had to fulfill a promise to be bigger and better and it delivered.
    “This collider event gets better every year. I’m pleased with the partnerships, the success stories we were able to share, the relationships that we’ve built over the last year with 19 HBCUs that are now an integral part of outreach initiative,” said Anissa Lumpkin, Senior Program Manager, Air Force Research Laboratory/Small Business (AFRL/SB). “This year was almost like a celebration of success and the partnerships that we created throughout the year. [Those relationships] allowed us to really see [gaps] and hone in; deep dive into [answering] ‘What are some areas the Air Force might be missing?’ to where we can build on those relationships.”
    This year’s event featured a list of speakers and panelists covering topics ranging from sharing lessons learned on how institutions and businesses can partner with the Air Force from people who have achieved it to beginning a STEM-oriented career with the Air Force. The response was unprecedented, with far more registered attendees and engaged viewers for both days than the previous year’s event.
    Brian McJilton, Director of AFRL/SB, was taken aback by the turnout.
    “[This] tells me that our outreach is working. What it also tells me is what we’re sharing through these types of activities is what they want to hear. More people are intrigued. More people are wanting to hear what we have to offer as an opportunity space or what we have to offer with regards to serving a greater need, which is our national security. I’d like to see that number continue to grow.”
    Interest in the event also showed a marked increase in impressions to AFRL/SB social media channels with continued engagement throughout both days.
    The collider served to inform not only those who watched and participated in the event, but also those who work within the program.
    “I didn’t realize how much [the AFRL] has invested in our students and faculty who participate,” Lumpkin began. “Just learning about the various scholarship and visiting faculty and research opportunities that are available was just outstanding to hear. There’s more work that we’re doing, and continuing to build on, throughout the year. There are a lot of new programs that were introduced over the last two days. I think it was the first time a lot of people were hearing [this information].”
    “Through all these different colliders, the big thing is: ‘Where do I go to get [started]?’ There’s so much out there; so many different places you can go to get information that it’s confusing. The presenters [focused on those] specific areas where [the audience] can get more information,” McJilton added.
    The mission is to aim higher and higher. Both McJilton and Lumpkin are targeting areas of opportunity, which includes taking the message of the AF HBCU/MSI Outreach Initiative to the institutions in person.
    “From a Small Business Office standpoint, I’ve talked about how we are to be more forward leaning. The Air Force and Air Force Research Laboratory seeks HBCUs/MSIs that have invested research in Science and Technology. For us to identify them and purposely invite them to an event like this or engage with them through other mechanisms will enable us to collaborate in ways we’re not doing [yet],” McJilton said.
    Lumpkin added, “One area that we will focus on in the coming year is university spinouts. [We will be] working with small business development centers located in and around universities, looking at business and engineering schools and bringing them together, to increase the number of university spinouts and create more collaborations in support of our warfighters and strengthening our national defense.”



    Date Taken: 09.14.2021
    Date Posted: 09.14.2021 16:14
    Story ID: 405248

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