The newly opened MGMWERX is accelerating the exploration of emerging technologies and quickening the pace of innovation in the River Region.
MGMWERX: WHAT IT IS
MGMWERX, part of the nationwide DEFENSEWERX network, is a 501c3 non-profit organization funded through a Partnership Intermediary Agreement (PIA) with the Air Force Research Laboratory. It operates on a collaborative agreement between Air University, the City of Montgomery, Montgomery County and the Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce. Visit mgmwerx.org and defensewerx.org to learn more.
The opening of MGMWERX at 41 commerce is a highly visible piece of the TECHMGM initiative
and further evidence of the capital city’s symbiotic relationship with Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base, bringing ideas and strategies outside base gates and combining them with those from local higher education institutions and the private sector to solve real-world issues that benefit all. We asked MGMWERX Director Steve Werner how the city scored the innovation hub and how it will benefit the region and our country.
Why was Montgomery chosen as the location for one of DEFENSEWERX’s innovation hubs?
The proximity of MGMWERX to Air University’s dynamic cross-section of Air Force know-how and experience places us at the heart of current issues and problems facing today’s Air Force. Air University educates more than 30,000 students through traditional classroom education and online programs annually, and we have the opportunity to directly interact with these students to help the Air Force find solutions to the tough problems — better, faster and cheaper.
What specific problems will MGMWERX be working on?
The toughest ones! We will be working on issues that directly support the warfighter and our national defense. Ultimately, the projects we take on are selected by our customers and serve to fill an immediate need someone has identified within their unit or career field; or in some cases, those problems that address some of the most wicked problems faced by the Air Force today — those problems whose solutions will ensure we continue to be the world’s greatest air power.
Explain how MGMWERX finds solutions. What specifically will be taking place at MGMWERX?
MGMWERX serves as a neutral facilitator of idea exchange, working to foster the collision of ideas between Air Force professionals and the host of experts from off the base. Initially, our main efforts will be focused on expanding our networked ecosystem. The WERX network is the key component to all our activities. By bringing together academia, non-traditional collaborators, regional economic developers and industry, we’re creating a web of expertise that can then be selectively engaged to help address Air University’s challenges and serve the larger Air Force mission.
Then, through a variety of tools — like those employed by our WERX siblings — we can begin to peel back the problem set. You can expect to see MGMWERX facilitating activities like ideation sessions, challenge events, pitch nights and workshops that take us through a process that can lead to technology transition and transfer support activities for our partners.
Additionally, we will be accepting ideas from people who believe they have something that helps our warfighter. These ideas can be submitted through our website, and we’ll help vet the idea and potentially ask the creator to come forward for further ideation and development.
In what ways will MGMWERX strengthen the culture of innovation in Montgomery?
MGMWERX will look to thought leaders “outside the gate." We want to expose and be exposed to emerging technologies and new thinking. We’ll bring a variety of people to the table to address issues by integrating academia, non-traditional collaborators, regional economic developers and industry with Air University’s research and processes to get innovation to the warfighter faster.
The traditional Department of Defense acquisition system has been described as cumbersome, with inherent barriers to small business and entrepreneurs. MG-MWERX has the means to lower these barriers and provide a quicker path for new ideas from the non-traditional sources of innovation.
How will MGMWERX benefit businesses in the River Region?
At MGMWERX, we believe some of our nation’s toughest challenges are only one or two connections away from being solved. By joining our ecosystem, people and businesses within the River Region can be part of the networked solution for the mutual benefit of the Air Force and the external community, connecting to resources that reach far beyond our local area.
What is your impression of the collaboration that exists here between the city, county, state government, the Chamber, the military and the private sector?
It’s been a great first impression. MGMWERX is partnering with Air University and the surrounding local area — to include the City of Montgomery, Montgomery County and the Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce — to inspire new thinking, optimize talent and become a breeding ground for innovative thought. We consider it a highlight to be inside downtown Montgomery’s innovation district and know that the efforts of our partners are enhancing the MGMWERX innovation space to be open to freely exploring problems and potential solutions, providing state-of-the-art data, communications and visualization capability while offering unique collaboration areas that provide secure areas for participants to protect property and information.
CHAMBER LEADING THE CHARGE
The partnership and collaboration between the City, County, Maxwell-Gunter AFB and the Chamber has been powerful for years, but it is currently getting even stronger. Lora McClendon, Vice President of Strategic Initiatives & Federal Affairs at the Chamber, explained why the Chamber has (and will continue to) put such a high level of support behind MGMWERX and related initiatives.
“The Air Force is working to create a stronger culture of innovation, to move faster and to utilize emerging technologies,” McClendon said. “Montgomery is innovating too and is the perfect partner for the Air Force at this pivotal point. The importance of MGMWERX to our area is the access to talent, resources and human capital it will bring our way. To engage with the Air Force on such a high profile, national effort that is focused beyond Montgomery is not only a good thing for local participants, it helps to further tell our story, and we will benefit from the individuals who will cycle in and out of Montgomery to participate in MGMWERX.