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AFWERX hosts Spark Cell workshop to share ideas, build innovation network

Maj. Ryan Brewer, right, 14th Flying Training Wing Spark Cell director, discusses what the Columbus Air Force Base (Miss.) Spark Cell is doing to create a culture of innovation with attendees at the AFWERX Spark Cell Workshop Dec. 13, 2018, in Austin, Texas. The workshop was designed to help grow the network of willing collaborators and share ideas and approaches that foster a results-driven culture of innovation.

Maj. Ryan Brewer, right, 14th Flying Training Wing Spark Cell director, discusses what the Columbus Air Force Base (Miss.) Spark Cell is doing to create a culture of innovation with attendees at the AFWERX Spark Cell Workshop Dec. 13, 2018, in Austin, Texas. The workshop was designed to help grow the network of willing collaborators and share ideas and approaches that foster a results-driven culture of innovation. (Courtesy Photo)

Maj. Ryan Brewer, right, 14th Flying Training Wing Spark Cell director, discusses what the Columbus Air Force Base (Miss.) Spark Cell is doing to create a culture of innovation with attendees at the AFWERX Spark Cell Workshop Dec. 13, 2018, in Austin, Texas. The workshop was designed to help grow the network of willing collaborators and share ideas and approaches that foster a results-driven culture of innovation.

Maj. Ryan Brewer, right, 14th Flying Training Wing Spark Cell director, discusses what the Columbus Air Force Base (Miss.) Spark Cell is doing to create a culture of innovation with attendees at the AFWERX Spark Cell Workshop Dec. 13, 2018, in Austin, Texas. The workshop was designed to help grow the network of willing collaborators and share ideas and approaches that foster a results-driven culture of innovation. (Courtesy Photo)

AUSTIN, Texas -- Airmen from across the Air Force gathered here Dec. 13-14 to learn about the Department of Defense’s innovation ecosystem and the best ways to plug into the overall culture of innovation at every level of the Total Force.

The Spark Cell workshop, hosted by the AFWERX-Austin hub team, was designed to help grow the network of willing collaborators and share ideas and approaches that foster a results driven culture of innovation.

“Every Airman has the opportunity to shape the future force and help us maintain our competitive advantage over our adversaries,” said Maj. Tony Perez, AFWERX Spark director.  “We want our Airmen to know that they're not alone on this innovation journey. There are pockets of excellence all across the Air Force that we want to connect in a decentralized network of semi-autonomous cells.

The workshop included classes on innovation fundamentals, tools, building a team and existing Spark Cell lessons learned case studies

Several representatives from wings across Air Education and Training Command attended the workshop to share ideas and collaborate, including the Spark Cell directors from Columbus Air Force Base, Miss., Joint Base San Antonio and Sheppard AFB, Texas, and Vance AFB, Okla.

“(AETC attendees) used this workshop as a way to tighten our communications and work directly with AFWERX and Pilot Training Next in order to move forward as a team on specific projects and requirements,” said Maj. Ryan Brewer, 14th Flying Training Wing innovation director. “Although we have been talking weekly, it was good to meet face to face and plan a strategic way forward.”

Experiencing the collaboration efforts by AFWERX with industry, as well as learning more about the contracting and acquisition processes, was also critical learning over the two days.

“Seeing all of the work that AFWERX is putting in with industry partners is going to help accelerate Air Force innovation,” said Brewer.  “Some of our biggest issues involve the contracting processes and AFWERX is helping us travel those roads faster and more efficiently.” 

Generating ideas and solutions that help get solutions out to the warfighter rapidly and allow units to accomplish their missions more effectively is ultimately the mission of Spark Cells, said Perez.

“We want every Airman to shape the Spark Cell network in a way that meets their mission needs,” said Perez.  “This dynamic network is results-driven and is always evolving based on the contributions of every Airman.  We support efforts that make the Air Force more mission effective at the tactical level and make our Airmen's lives better.”

According to the AFWERX website, AFWERX’s core mission is to improve Air Force capabilities by connecting innovators, simplifying technology transfer, and accelerating results by connecting diverse, innovative members from industry, academia, and government; creating capabilities options and prototype opportunities for the Air Force; facilitating streamlined acquisition processes; and fostering a culture of innovation in the Airmen.