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The Mission Acceleration Center – Where innovation meets action

Written by Debra Bouchegnies / November 17, 2021

Department of Defense-funded program will make it easier for UW researchers and spinoffs to engage with the federal government on innovation opportunities

On October 29th, Impact Washington and the Pacific Northwest Defense Coalition launched the Mission Acceleration Center (MAC) program to create an interconnected and collaborative innovation network in the Pacific Northwest. Headlining the event was Congressman Rick Larsen (WA-02) who gave the keynote address and cut the ribbon. MAC’s mission is to remove barriers to engagement, accelerate innovation, and spur the development of “dual-use” products – those that have both commercial and government applications. It will do this by bringing entrepreneurs, startups, venture capitalists (VCs), and academics together with federal government civilians and military personnel in support of the Department of Defense (DoD) to solve problems and create pathways to work with the government.

What is amazing is that only a year ago, a group of us representing the Department of Defense, the Navy, the Army, the Air Force, the Department of Energy, Washington State government, and the venture community started talking about this idea. And now it’s a reality! The Center is funded by the DoD’s National Security Innovation Network, and the NavalX Northwest Tech Bridge.

Going forward, the MAC will become the center of gravity in the region to enable companies and academia, including UW spinoffs and researchers, to more deeply engage and work with the federal government.

From our experience working with the tech community in this region that the DoD is sometimes perceived as opaque and monolithic. People struggle to understand the broad nature of its mission or find the right touch points to get involved. Today, most startups, VCs, and even some universities do not pursue a dialogue with the DoD because it is seen as a challenge. Seattle has been particularly representative of this disconnect despite the sheer density of the military service elements in the Puget Sound area (~80,000 military personnel).

However, Seattle also represents a significant opportunity to pursue innovative solutions to some of our most pressing challenges. The greater Seattle area is a major hub of technological innovation. Seattle has the highest percentage of college graduates over 25 (>63%) among major U.S. cities. Home to over 120,000 engineers, Seattle is a tech-savvy destination to rival Silicon Valley. The region also hosts over 130 research outposts for major tech companies. Seattle is a recognized leader in software development, artificial intelligence/machine learning, robotics, pharmaceuticals, and biotech. It is also headquarters to two of the largest market capitalization companies worldwide (Microsoft and Amazon), and is recognized as the “Cloud Capital of the World” with AWS and Azure based here. Seattle is also home to the  Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence (AI2), the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Juno Therapeutics, Boeing, and many other industry-leading companies. Despite the strength of the ecosystem, DoD engagement with the tech and academic sectors in the region is very low.

For this reason, we set ourselves on a path to establish the MAC to help us change this dynamic. For startups, VCs, and academics, the MAC provides a central entry point to learn about national security challenges directly from DoD personnel and pitch solutions to them. They can interact with end-users to get feedback and iterate on solutions and learn how to work with government including applying for SBIR and STTR funding, Cooperative Agreements, and Other Transaction Authority. For military personnel, the MAC provides opportunities to interact and build relationships with the tech community, participate in problem curation seminars to better understand their problems,  and learn about new technologies that can help them achieve their missions. For everyone, the MAC will host community-building events including pitch competitions, hackathons, and speaker events on emerging technologies and challenges. Most importantly, though, it will provide a physical space for everyone to come together and collaborate. Moreover, all of this will be provided at no cost to startups and academia.

The MAC is located at 999 Third Ave, Suite 3300, Seattle, WA 98104, co-located with Madrona Venture Labs and one floor below Madrona Venture Group. Learn more about the Mission Acceleration Center (MAC) and join the community.

Mission Acceleration Center