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AFWERX, SpaceWERX announce Strategic Funding Increase selections at South by Southwest

  • Published
  • By Kristen Dennis

AUSTIN, Texas – AFWERX, the innovation arm of the Department of the Air Force and powered by the Air Force Research Laboratory, and SpaceWERX, the innovation arm of the U.S. Space Force and a unique division within AFWERX, announced the Program Year 2024 Strategic Funding Increase, or STRATFI, a contract award selections from its Phase II eligible applicants at the South by Southwest conference in Austin, Texas, March 8, 2024.

AFWERX Director and Chief Commercialization Officer for the Department of the Air Force, Col. Elliott Leigh, made the announcement during his keynote speech titled “Chasing Innovation: Lessons Learned,” at Capital Factory, the home of AFWERX’s Austin Hub.

“Our growth stage investment programs, Strategic Funding Increase and Tactical Funding Increase, are an integral part of the AFWERX and SpaceWERX vision to forge an innovation ecosystem that delivers disruptive Air and Space capabilities,” Leigh said. “By deliberately engaging with Space Force Deltas, Air Force Major Commands, Program Executive Offices and Department of the Air Force Senior Acquisition leadership, we are employing dollars at scale, both government and private investment, to accelerate the development of strategic capabilities. I am impressed by the scope and diversity of capabilities submitted in response to the Program Year 24 opportunity and am excited to see the outcome of the continued development of these capabilities over the coming years.” STRATFI is both an AFWERX and SpaceWERX effort to help Small Business Innovation Research, or SBIR, and Small Business Technology Transfer, or STTR, projects overcome the difficult transition between development and full production. This multi-year infusion of funds gives small businesses an opportunity to find the investors they need and the ability to continue research and development as they march toward full-rate capability.

Funding amounts within the STRATFI program range from $3 million to $15 million for each defense project. The Program Year 24 combined cohort for both AFWERX and SpaceWERX accounts for a total of $193 million in SBIR/STTR funds, $419 million in government matching funds and $187 million in private matching funds. Small businesses that have received a SBIR/STTR Phase II award within the prior 24 months are eligible to apply for the STRATFI program.

This year’s AFWERX STRATFI selections supporting the U.S. Air Force are:

  • 3D Scanning and Visualization using AI and XR, Grid Raster, Inc.
  • Advanced Tactical Augmented Reality System, Red Six Aerospace, Inc.
  • Bedrock Secure Processor ASIC, Idaho Scientific
  • BESPIN CloudOps with Trek10, Trek10, Inc.
  • Bombers Robotics, Wilder Systems, Inc.
  • Control Systems for Coordinated Operations (CoSyCO), Coherent Technical Services, Inc.
  • Core VR Environment, HAVIK Solutions, LLC
  • Farsight: Actionable Intelligence at the Tactical Edge, Reveal Technology, Inc.
  • Model One, Istari Federal LLC
  • Service Design Accelerator, Skylight Inc.
  • Tactical AI, EpiSys Science, Inc.

“I am incredibly proud of the strides the team has made to accelerate the review, selection and award processes to significantly reduce the notification timeline and build a robust program able to offer multiple opportunities throughout the year,” said Daniel Carroll, AFWERX AFVentures director. “We are excited to collaborate with our government, industry and private investment partners to execute this bridging program from SBIR/STTR Phase II to operational use and commercialization.”  

This year’s SpaceWERX STRATFI selections supporting the U.S. Space Force are:

  • GEO Satellite Servicing Vehicle, Starfish Space, Inc.
  • Hybrid Space Optical SATCOM, Skyloom Global Corp
  • Integrated Digital Platform, Defense Unicorns, Inc.
  • Mobile Autonomous Robotic Swarms, Lunar Outpost, Inc.
  • Proliferated GEO SATCOM, Astranis Space Technologies Corp

“The STRATFI program is advancing game changing end-to-end capabilities for the United States Space Force,” said Arthur Grijalva, director of SpaceWERX. “These innovative ideas, technologies and capabilities are what we need to compete and win as a nation.”

For the Program Year 24 cycle, Space Ventures and AFVentures have continued to improve and scale the program. The team implemented new tools, streamlined processes, reduced the notification timeline by more than 50% and engaged senior leaders to seek out and fund programs with the greatest possible impact to the Department of the Air Force’s strategic vision. New in the PY24 Notice of Opportunity, STRATFI submissions required a government champion to submit the application.

Once the STRATFI contract is awarded, the partnering government organization works with the awarded small business to execute the contract. The ultimate goal is to transition the technology to a Phase III contract that will allow the effort to be fully deployed and leveraged within the supporting customer’s organization, said AFWERX officials. Throughout the life of the contract, the AFVentures STRATFI Execution Team works with the technical point of contact to track contract progress, milestones and performance. 

The STRATFI and TACFI teams are launching the Program Year 24.2 Opportunity for Space submissions mid-March. These programs require differing levels of matching funds and avenues for defense and industry matching. To learn more, click here

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:    

About SpaceWERX  
As the innovation arm of the U.S. Space Force and a unique division within AFWERX, SpaceWERX inspires and empowers collaboration with innovators to accelerate capabilities and shape our future in space. Headquartered in Los Angeles, SpaceWERX employs 40 military, civilian and contractor personnel executing an annual $457 million budget. Additionally, SpaceWERX partners with Space Systems Command's Commercial Space Office (COMSO) as a collaborative program. Since it was aligned under AFRL in Aug. 2021, SpaceWERX has executed 906 contracts worth more than $690 million to strengthen the U.S. defense industrial base and drive faster technology transition to operational capability. For more information, visit

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