Air Force looks to Texas startups, universities for the future

Texas
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COLLEGE STATION, Texas (KXAN) — The U.S. Air Force is turning to research on science and technology to remain competitive. That work includes collaborating with local businesses, start-ups and universities.
“China is a particularly rapidly innovative adversary and we have returned to the era of great power of competition so we have to meet that threat,” Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson said.

Secretary Wilson spoke at Texas A&M University during a conference for the Air Force 2030 Initiative, which was launched to foster innovative ideas for the department related to science and technology.  

“We’re looking at both what areas we need to focus on for the long term for the Air Force and then how do we do our research,” she said. “How can we better engage with universities when it comes to actually doing that research?”

This visit was Wilson’s second stop in Texas this week. On Wednesday, the Air Force launched another innovation and collaborative hub at The Capital Factory in Austin. Called AFWERX, the program will focus on bringing fresh ideas on ways to improve the training environment. Leaders say partnering with different entrepreneurs to share fresh ideas can help the public further engage with the Air Force.

Director of Technology Accelerators Steven Lauver says it’s about “embedding in the community.”

“Finding those communities that are teaming with start-ups and entrepreneurs in a very active start-up ecosystem and just having those conversations,” he said.

Lauver says shaping people’s knowledge about aviation and the work the Air Force does can start earlier as well.

“When’s the earliest you can start learning how to fly a plane? Frankly, it’s in middle school,” he said. “If you could get actual simulations that early, you’re giving people muscle, hand-eye coordination. You’re giving them the flying sense.”

Wilson says the science and technology strategies will be written this fall.

“Our priorities as a service are to restore the readiness of the force, to meet any fight, to drive cost-effective modernization and to develop exceptional leaders,” Wilson said.

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