AUG 26, 2021

Inaugural AIRC Incubator Awards

The Acquisition Innovation Research Center (AIRC) is pleased to announce that eight proposals were selected by the Department of Defense (DoD) for Phase I of its inaugural Incubator Awards. The selected proposals will receive seed funding to begin developing new ideas, pilots, and applied experiments that address enduring and emerging DoD acquisition system challenges and opportunities. Incubating academically rigorous and unique ideas is integral to the AIRC’s strategy for innovating defense acquisition.

In April 2021, AIRC issued an open call for academia proposals outlining research efforts with significant potential to improve the practice of DoD acquisition ( Over 60 proposals from 30 universities were received in May 2021, demonstrating strong interest from academia in addressing enduring DoD challenges by applying innovative concepts and approaches from the disciplines of business, management, public affairs, public policy, engineering, intelligent systems, operations research, data science, statistics, computer science, and information science.

Each proposal was reviewed by a select group of nonconflicting experts (constituting senior faculty members from across the AIRC universities, in collaboration with senior subject-matter experts) and DoD executive sponsors. The final assessment considered the following criteria: responsiveness to the topic area, intellectual merit, clarity of vision, novelty, past performance of the investigators, potential for the proposal to have a strategic impact on DoD acquisition, and the degree to which the proposal took full advantage of academia’s multi-disciplinary research capabilities. This was a highly competitive process, and the eight research proposals selected for summer awards represent 12% of the proposals received and considered.

The topic areas for these incubator studies are:

  • Defense workforce training and advice technology. Assist in rapid workforce training and assistance—including for new authorities and approaches—through advanced training tools, technologies, and methodologies.
  • Corporate memory and understanding future constraints for improve decisions. Enable better actions and decisions by capturing, developing, sharing, and effectively using organizational knowledge.
  • Aligning incentives for agility and innovation. Motivate innovation and acquisition agility by aligning workforce and organizational incentives and minimizing disincentives.
  • Agile test and evaluation (T&E) across the acquisition lifecycle. Enable efficient and effective test and evaluation (T&E) in operationally relevant multi-domain/complex environments at speeds relevant to changing threats and operational needs.
  • Assessing return-on-investment (ROI) of digital transformation for decision making. Inform decision-making, budgeting, and tradeoffs by enabling assessments of ROI for acquisition investment options.

The DoD and AIRC look forward to seeing the development of these efforts and their applied contributions to transforming and improving defense acquisition.