Published on

On November 18, 2020, the Ohio Federal Research Network (OFRN) hosted its Sustaining Ohio’s Aeronautical Readiness and Innovation in the Next Generation (SOARING) Initiative Round 5 Pre-Release Info Session webinar. The event drew in 60 attendees with the goal to provide an overview of the SOARING Round 5 solicitation process, introduce the federal partners’ Areas of Interest (AOIs) and answer participant questions.

The OFRN was established in 2015 to build partnerships among innovators in academia, industry and the government in support of U.S. defense and civil space missions. The OFRN’s SOARING initiative has the vision to make Ohio the nexus for unmanned air systems (UASs), personal air vehicles (PAVs), logistics delivery air vehicles (LDAVs) testing, integration and manufacturing. The OFRN has successfully run four solicitation rounds in the last six years.

The OFRN offers an impressive array of partnerships that include the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), National Air and Space Intelligence Center (NASIC), NASA Glenn Research Center, Naval Medical Research Unit-Dayton (NAMRU-D), State of Ohio’s Adjutant General (TAG) and Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) along with 12 universities, two community colleges, 90 businesses and eight spinout organizations. So far, The OFRN has leveraged $40 million in funding, supporting 28 projects and created over 900 jobs. The OFRN is funded by the State of Ohio and is administered by Parallax Advanced Research and The Ohio State University.

The webinar was co-moderated by Maj. Gen. (Ret.) U.S. Air Force Mark Bartman, OFRN senior advisor and Ms. Becky Mescher, OFRN program coordinator.

Maj. Gen. Bartman commenced the webinar by introducing the info session coordinators from the AFRL, NASIC, NASA Glenn Research Center and NAMRU-D. The Parallax Advanced Research CEO Dennis Andersh provided opening remarks.

Key Timestamps Intro & Overview:

[00:03:25-00:05:56] Parallax CEO Dennis Andersh provided opening remarks and referred to the high-quality products and projects that have resulted from the Parallax and OFRN endeavors and the strong support both entities have at the state level. Andersh touched upon the new engagement endeavors with federal subject matter experts (SMEs) and the AOIs they have been working on.

[00:05:57-00:06:48] General Bartman shared the agenda for the webinar. The webinar goal was to provide an overview of the specifics of SOARING Round 5 and answer questions about the AOIs. 

[00:6:49-00:10:04] The OFRN briefing begins with an overview of the OFRN program and its SOARING Initiative. In addition to building connections between innovators in academia, industry and government, the OFRN also addresses the cross-sector ecosystem in terms of issues faced by federal partners looking for an AOI that is the best fit for their technology. While the OFRN strategic focus is to capitalize on federal and university research, the program also tries to better train its university partners on how to partner with federal entities.

[00:10:05-00:10:58] Maj. Gen. Bartman shares information about achievements of previous rounds and specifics of types of projects funded in the past. Funded projects from SOARING Rounds 3 and 4 include remote piloted airplane, universal flight data translator and resilient and secure UAS flight control, all of which are aligned with the SOARING initiative vision.

[00:10:59-00:14:20] A SOARING Round 5 process overview is presented. SOARING Round 5 is a three-stage process with Stage 1: the proposal, Stage 2: the pitch which is similar to U.S. Air Force Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) / Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) pitch days and Stage 3: the award decision. In keeping with the OFRN’s goal to forge beneficial connections between academia, industry and federal agencies, all projects in SOARING Round 5 must consist of at least one industry member, two Ohio college/universities and one federal partner/sponsor. Notably, SOARING Round 5 includes a requirement for a Student Experience and Engagement Initiative (SEE). Detailed information about reasoning behind requirements and key dates was shared.

Key Timestamps: Federal Partners’ AOIs

[00:14:21-00:17:05] The AFRL presented an overview of the federal partners’ AOIs. Examples of the AOIs include vertical take-off & landing (VTOL), patient care in austere and contested environments, enabling human-machine teaming using brain-machine interfaces and applications of commercial satellites to humanitarian, disaster and defense topics.

[00:17:07-00:31:30] AOI #1 on VTOL is explained, and SMEs answer questions.

[00:31:30-00:47:48] AOI #2 on situational awareness and proliferated surveillance systems is explained, and SMEs answer questions.

[00:47:49-00:59:28] AOI #3 on patient care in austere and contested environments is explained, and SMEs answer questions.

[00:59:29-01:11:24] AOI #4 on personal exposure devices is explained, and SMEs answer questions.

[01:11:26-01:17:06] AOI #5 on acceleration effects is explained, and SMEs answer questions.

[01:17:08-01:24:55] AOI #6 on improving human-machine teaming performance using brain-machine interface technologies is explained, and SMEs answer questions.

[01:24:57-01:38:51] AOI #7 on advanced power systems applicable to aviation propulsion, micro-grids and lunar surface operations is explained, and SMEs answer questions.

[01:38:53-01:48:36] AOI #8 on quantum communications is explained, and SMEs answer questions.

[01:48:40-01:49:54] AOI #9 on applications of commercial satellites to humanitarian, disaster and defense topics is explained.

[01:49:59-01:53:28] AOI #10 on large data set triage is explained.

[01:53:29-01:57:01] AOI #11 on journal article warning and correlation is explained, and SMEs answer questions.

[01:57:02-02:03:03] AOI #12 on other topics, an overview of SOARING Round 5 mandatory training for each stage of the project review process and the schedule and due dates are presented. The OFRN introduced the team matchmaking service, a service copied from the Academic Partnership Engagement Experiment (APEX), which assists innovators in finding required research partners and filling possible technical gaps on teams.

Key Timestamps: Teaming Connections & Upcoming Proposal Training

[02:03:15-02:04:41] Parallax CEO provides closing remarks thanking the OFRN’s federal coordinators and SMEs and all attendees for their energetic participation leading to a fruitful discussion.

[02:05:52-02:06:55] Maj. Gen. Bartman provides important contact information for further information and questions.

The event achieved its goal of facilitating high-level engagement between federal partners and attendees/innovators, by providing clarifying descriptions and by facilitating a robust conversation with answers to critical questions about the scope of each AOI. A summary of all the questions from the webinar can be accessed at our OFRN FAQ page.