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AFWERX to highlight its mission with American entrepreneurs at South by Southwest

  • Published
  • By Matthew Clouse
  • Air Force Research Laboratory Public Affairs

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio (AFRL) – AFWERX, the innovation arm of the Department of the Air Force, will showcase its mission and programs with innovators, entrepreneurs and small businesses at the South by Southwest conference in Austin, Texas, March 8-10, 2024. The event will take place at Capital Factory, the home of AFWERX’s Austin Hub, located in the Omni Hotel. 

Representatives from all four core divisions of AFWERX – AFVentures, Prime, Spark and SpaceWERX – will participate in panels and interactive sessions, and are available for one-on-one meetings during the three-day conference. AFWERX Director and Chief Commercialization Officer for the Department of the Air Force Col. Elliott Leigh will deliver a keynote speech titled “Chasing Innovation: Lessons Learned,” March 8 at noon Central Standard Time. 

"In this era of strategic competition, where every innovation, every advancement matters, AFWERX needs audacious Americans with ideas that can benefit the country,” Leigh said. “We look forward to meeting you at South by Southwest and together, we can transform ideas into tangible solutions that empower our warfighters and secure our nation's future in the face of competition."  

Leigh will also discuss the Great Power Competition, one of the most extensive recalibrations in recent history for the DAF, during his keynote speech. DAF senior civilian and military leaders announced the GPC Feb. 12, 2024, which calls for sweeping plans to reshape, refocus and reoptimize the Air Force and Space Force to ensure continued supremacy in those domains while also better posturing the services to deter and, if necessary, prevail.  

“Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall said, ‘We need an efficient and effective pipeline of technologies,’ and that’s what we do,” Leigh added. “When we think about innovation, AFWERX pairs small businesses with the government to accelerate capabilities for the warfighter faster than our traditional acquisition system.”  

Other AFWERX panels include (times are CST): 

  • March 8 at 3:30 p.m.: "Defense Innovation Community: Connecting the Ecosystem," featuring insights from innovation leaders including Karen Roth, AFWERX deputy director; Lt. Col. Jennifer Warren, AFWERX military deputy director; and Cassie Muffley, National Security Innovation Network acting Defense Innovation OnRamp Hub program director, on how the defense ecosystem is prepared to engage with commercial and academic innovators to address national security challenges.    

  • March 8 at 4:30 p.m.: “Newcomers: Getting Started In Defense with AFWERX," featuring representatives from AFVentures, SpaceWERX Ventures, Collider and Challenge Teams, and the Small Business Administration.  

  • March 9 at 10 a.m.: "Why We're Worth Your Time and Money! Success Stories that Affect Your Daily Lives," featuring Daniel Carroll, AFWERX AFVentures director. 

  • March 10 at 10 a.m.: “Ask Me Anything: Evaluator and Technical Point of Contact Panel - Key to a Successful Proposal,” featuring Kevin Judd, AFVentures deputy director. 

To see a full list of AFWERX events at South by Southwest, click here

About AFRL   
The Air Force Research Laboratory is the primary scientific research and development center for the Department of the Air Force. AFRL plays an integral role in leading the discovery, development and integration of affordable warfighting technologies for our air, space and cyberspace force. With a workforce of more than 12,500 across nine technology areas and 40 other operations across the globe, AFRL provides a diverse portfolio of science and technology ranging from fundamental to advanced research and technology development. For more information, visit  

About AFWERX  
As the innovation arm of the DAF and a directorate within the Air Force Research Laboratory, AFWERX brings cutting-edge American ingenuity from small businesses and start-ups to address the most pressing challenges of the DAF. AFWERX employs approximately 370 military, civilian and contractor personnel at five hubs and sites executing an annual $1.4 billion budget. Since 2019, AFWERX has executed 6,028 new contracts worth more than $4 billion to strengthen the U.S. defense industrial base and drive faster technology transition to operational capability. For more information, visit:    

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