AFWERX Challenge is a platform for strengthening our U.S. Air Force (USAF). It is a mechanism for finding the right solution for the USAF customer despite the size, structure, and origin of the organization offering the solution. The challenge process is a user-centric market research approach that empowers Air Force contracting officers to utilize the appropriate procurement method to rapidly partner with the top emerging technology providers participating in the challenge.
The Challenge process allows for the funding of Minimal Viable Prototypes (MVPs) and empowers rapid contracting thus enabling teams to act quickly on identified solutions. Additional funding could be made available to make Production Representative Prototypes that successfully demonstrate an ability to meet our end user’s needs.
AFWERX Challenge is not a prize competition. It is a competitive solution acquisition process intended to engage solution providers who can, under contract, begin solving a specific problem defined by the challenge topic. Each challenge sponsor is required to allocate funding to be awarded to challenge winners for initial prototyping.
FAR-based contracting instruments, Other Transaction Authority (OTA) for Prototype Projects 10 USC 2371b, to include follow-on production OTs, Prizes for advanced technology achievements 10 USC 2374a, and/or Prize Competitions 15 USC 3719 may support the accomplishment of these events.
- AFWERX Challenge is not obligated to award any contracts.
- AFWERX Challenge awards are not an ongoing production contract but are a pathway to a production contract.
- AFWERX Challenge awards may result in continued prototyping funding that can be awarded when project sponsors are happy with the outcomes from initial funding.
Though a specific budget has been identified and allocated for each challenge, the amounts vary by topic/sponsor. And though that amount is known to the AFWERX Challenge program, it will not be communicated publicly while solutions are being solicited.
The reasons for this approach are:
- We want solution providers to focus on how to solve the problem, not how to frame their solution to meet a specific budget target.
- There has yet to be a 1 to 1 relationship between initial prototype funding and the budget needed to fully prove a concept's viability. Follow-on funding has been secured for nearly all challenge topics that have moved into the prototyping phase. For example, there is an AFWERX Challenge that had an initial prototyping budget of $150,000 that was awarded to three solution providers. That project has continued to secure additional prototyping funding for a set of promising solutions and has now delivered over $5M in contracts, including a contract to a solution that was submitted to the challenge but was not initially funded.
For solution providers seeking to understand if there is enough budget for their solution, the simple answer is that the USAF seeks to find a solution for a real need and secure an ongoing production contract to utilize that solution. If the solution is feasible for a rational cost that generates an understandable return on investment, then the USAF intends to try and secure an ongoing production contract with the supplier(s) involved.