WASHINGTON — Ten winners have emerged from the first International Space Pitch Day, a joint venture between the U.S. and the U.K. designed to encourage and reward innovation that could benefit the two nations' military endeavors in space.
The event was modeled on the U.S. Air Force pitch days — “Shark Tank”-inspired competitions where nontraditional companies can directly present their technology solutions to acquisition officials and walk away with same-day contracts.
The Air Force has held dozens of topical pitch days over the last two years as officials try to identify “defense unicorns.” The first space-specific pitch day was hosted by the Air Force in November 2019, though the since-established U.S. Space Force has taken over those pitch days.
“Pitch Days open the government’s aperture to work with commercially-focused companies,” according to Will Roper, the assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition, technology and logistics. “Competing for technology outside of our fence lines has been a major U.S. Air Force and Space Force theme. Partnering with our allies to compete globally is the natural evolution.”
Open to companies and entrepreneurs from all over the world, the inaugural International Space Pitch Day was jointly funded by the U.S. Air Force and the U.K.’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory and the British Royal Air Force. Representatives from those organizations, U.S. Space Force, U.K. Strategic Command and NATO worked through the various proposals, with 15 companies invited to present their solutions during the Defence Space Conference in London.
Ultimately, 10 companies were awarded same-day contracts each worth up to $66,000, according to an announcement from the U.K. government. That funding will help the vendors fast-track their solutions.
“It is the first time two nations anywhere in the world have come together to award defense contracts based around a pitch-style event, similar to Dragon’s Den/Shark Tank,” said Vice-Marshal Harvey Smyth, the U.K.'s director for military space and air. “It is also the first time two nations have awarded joint defence innovation contracts to an overseas-based enterprise in this way.”
While most of the winners are from the U.S. or the U.K., one company from India and another from Australia won contracts.
The ten winners were:
- 114 AI Innovation Limited (India)
- Clearbox Systems (Australia)
- Clutch Space Systems (U.K.)
- Cognitive Space (U.S.)
- precursor SPC (U.S.)
- Riskaware Limited and Telespazio Vega UK (U.K.)
- Rocket Communications (U.S.)
- Slingshot Aerospace (U.S.)
- Spire Global UK (U.K.)
- Swim.ai (U.S.)
Nathan Strout covers space, unmanned and intelligence systems for C4ISRNET.