Since it opened its doors six months ago, we evaluated the Mission Acceleration Center (MAC) and its record identifying opportunities and funding defense innovation for students and startups in the Pacific Northwest.
It’s only been six months since we opened the Mission Acceleration Center (MAC) to help UW CoMotion and the greater Seattle innovation community build relationships with the Department of Defense (DoD) and the team at MAC. Here is a report on our performance so far.
A mid-point review
Since November, the MAC has engaged over 200 Pacific Northwest ventures, educated companies on navigating Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) contracts, launched a prize challenge to develop technologies for the Navy, and showcased CoMotion students and their technologies for Washington’s congressional leaders. Not bad for only a half-year of impact.
In December 2021, military leaders at the MAC met with ventures interested in learning about open SBIR Broad Agency Announcements (BAAs) to apply to, which help solve for the interests and needs of the DoD. With a focus on Navy and Air Force opportunities, our discussions helped remove barriers for the ventures to engage with the DoD, accelerating defense innovation for the Pacific Northwest startup community. We helped multiple PNW companies navigate the process and apply for Phase 1 SBIRs, and we are currently working with two companies to secure Phase 2 SBIR awards worth at least $750,000 each.
In February 2022, we launched a MAC prize challenge to engage entrepreneurs to work with the Navy to create innovative solutions composed of a system of sensors to enhance real-time detection of southern resident killer whales and North Atlantic right whales in high vessel traffic areas in the Pacific Northwest and the Atlantic Coast, respectively. We asked the entrepreneurs to develop prototypes to detect, classify, and display marine mammal locations in real-time, allowing autonomous vessels to take proactive measures to avoid using sonar or striking the whales. Over the course of the challenge, we recruited 90 participants who submitted 28 solutions, 14 of which will move on to the second phase of evaluations this month. Finalists will be selected in the third phase, with the winner receiving at least a $50,000 cash prize and the chance to continue developing their solution on a Navy prototyping contract.
Representative Rick Larsen (WA-02), who cut the ribbon for the MAC back in October and serves on the House Armed Services Committee, visited the MAC last month to talk to area startups about the challenges they face engaging with the government. We received excellent feedback on what we can do to support startups and we showcased how the MAC is successfully solving these engagement issues.
The companies in attendance included CoMotion-supported startup Wave Motion. We introduced Wave Motion to military organizations and have helped guide the company through the DoD labyrinth in search of offices and partners that would find the team’s technology valuable. Wave Motion is from Rep. Larsen’s district and, as a result of this meeting, they may have the opportunity to showcase their technology to him as they further refine the concept. Last month, Wave Motion received $1.3 million from the Navy to prototype its jet-gun launcher, and the MAC will continue to support them as they work on developing its capabilities.
The next six months
Over the next six months, the MAC will continue to provide access to and engagement with the DoD for the world-class Pacific Northwest innovation, startup, and tech sectors in addition to expanding programming and access to funding opportunities. The MAC aims to become an enduring fixture in the community, enabling problem solvers to get involved for years to come.
We envision the MAC becoming a space that facilitates interactions with the government and enables small businesses to learn how to effectively do business with the DoD. We recognize that success will require navigating the challenges facing our region, engaging the massive amount of talent throughout the Pacific Northwest, and eliminating the disconnect from the federal government.
Our door is always open for anyone trying to start the critical work of defense innovation.
Contact Justin Dunnicliff at email@example.com to learn more about the MAC or to schedule a visit.