So what? who cares? why you?® is at the heart of our efforts to translate AFRL research into commercial economic growth - and in doing so, better serve the warfighter. No other process gives us the foundation to identify and assess the business potential inside an early-stage technology - whether inside the AFRL laboratory or in a small business.""
— Scott Koorndyk
Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), headquartered in Dayton, Ohio, commands a $4B Research and Development budget. Despite the lab’s size and strength, its surrounding city of Dayton – the fourth largest recipient of Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) funding in the country – wasn’t fully leveraging the innovation housed within AFRL. With few new companies launching, Dayton was experiencing job loss, migration, decreasing per-capita income, slow patent growth, and low venture capital investment. The city of Dayton needed a way to strengthen the role of AFRL as a regional economic asset.
In 2015, sponsored by the Air Force Research Laboratory, The Entrepreneurs Center (TEC) in Dayton launched the Technology Acceleration Project (TAP). TAP is designed to accelerate the commercialization of AFRL technologies into two market spaces: the Startup TAP program aims to launch startups based upon ARFL intellectual property. SBIR TAP assists small businesses that receive Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase 1 funding from AFRL (AFRL deploys more than $350M/year in the SBIR program).
The foundation for both the Startup TAP and SBIR TAP programs is the So what? who cares? why you? entrepreneurial coaching program. TEC Dayton has a team of WKI Certified Coaches working with founders and small business owners from across the country, including: California, Illinois, Colorado, North Carolina, Ohio, Georgia, Michigan and more. These coaches run weekly So what? who cares? why you? entrepreneurial coaching workshops to guide the discovery and development of business value propositions for the technology. Small groups of 6-10 company builders and founders meet weekly to roll up their sleeves and work through the So what? who cares? why you? methodology for their chosen AFRL technology.
Since January 2017, more than 50 companies have completed the SBIR TAP program and have secured more than $2M in follow-on funding, significantly outperforming the averages in securing SBIR Phase II ($1.5M contract awards) funding. Participants in the Startup TAP program have to date assessed more than 25 AFRL technologies, and found 8 technologies to be viable for startups. From this group, four startups have been formed.
Both the Startup TAP and SBIR TAP Programs are actively running at TEC Dayton.
Listen to Wendy’s conversation with Scott Koorndyk about inspiring the Dayton ecosystem through their AFRL partnership.
WKI – Design Thinking for Business Builders