Griffiss Institute seeks teams for defense innovation program

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ROME — The Griffiss Institute is looking for a few good teams – 10 to be exact – to take part in a 12-week defense innovation program that begins in May.

The competition for the 10 slots is open to startups developing defense applications for artificial intelligence/machine learning, cyber, quantum, and UAS solutions with potential to improve American national security and economic competitiveness. Interested teams should complete the online application at www.griffissinstitute.org/hustle, which is due by 2:14 p.m. on Monday. At that point, no more than 20 teams will be selected to give a five-minute presentation and answer questions from an expert panel of judges.

The 10 teams selected will then take part in the program this summer. HUSTLE is sponsored by more than 20 organizations and individuals committed to advancing the program’s mission, with core support from Rome Lab and the state Division of Science and Technology (NYSTAR).

The HUSTLE Defense Accelerator is an elite and immersive training academy for seed stage tech startups offered exclusively in person at the Innovare Advancement Center, an open innovation hub driven by the Air Force Research Laboratory Information Directorate (Rome Lab) to accelerate academic, industry and government talent and technologies in areas critical to national security.

Teams selected should be prepared to participate in a rigorous training program with expert trainers, coaches and mentors from May 23 through Aug. 12, in the heart of New York’s defense ecosystem in Rome.

The 10 startups selected will enjoy a unique, two-track opportunity during the HUSTLE program. Short for Helping Upstate Science + Technology Leaders + Entrepreneurs, HUSTLE startups will learn how to grow their businesses and how to successfully collaborate with the Department of Defense (DoD) and other government agencies to drive solutions to market.

The business track of the HUSTLE program will teach, among other topics: motivation, competition, customer discovery, business model development, marketing and communications, intellectual property and market entry. The government track will include, among other topics: requirements for DoD and in particular Air Force and Space Force programs, how to write a proposal for the DoD, how to handle confidential unclassified information, and basic DoD contracting rules and requirements. Qualifying HUSTLE teams will have the opportunity to pitch for up to $300,000 in investments to scale their companies in the Mohawk Valley.

This HUSTLE accelerator program was made possible by a $2 million Upstate Revitalization Initiative grant from Empire State Development which was recommended by the Mohawk Valley Regional Economic Development Council (MVREDC).

“The HUSTLE Defense Accelerator was designed in alignment with national best practices to do precisely what it says – Help Upstate Science and Technology Leaders and Entrepreneurs to be successful in startups driving new applications of AI/ML, cyber, quantum and UAS technologies that enable our defense ecosystem to fight, and win, against our adversaries,” said Heather Hage, CEO and president of Griffiss Institute. “Rome is the heart of the New York State defense ecosystem, and the GI is committed to deliver an unparalleled experience at Innovare Advancement Center this summer, where HUSTLE teams will join the ranks of a global community of diverse scientists, engineers and entrepreneurs working side-by-side, unified in purpose to protect our country and grow the national economy.”

USAF Colo. Fred Garcia II, director Information Directorate, Air Force Research Laboratory, said cybersecurity is a general area of focus for the Air Force Research Laboratory in Rome and with projects such as the HUSTLE Defense Accelerator nearby, there are many opportunities for growth, innovation and improvement in this field in Central New York.

“For the Airmen and Guardians we work with, safety is job one,” said Garcia. “For the USAF and USSF, cybersecurity is not just a word to describe this field — it is a calling to provide total cyber-safety of the digital Airman or Guardian.”

U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-NY, said cybersecurity and emerging technology play an increasingly important part in national defense and local economies.

“The Innovare Advancement Center and the Griffiss Institute are great examples of how public-private partnerships can help drive the cybersecurity and quantum computing industry here in Rome,” Gillibrand said. “Programs like the HUSTLE Defense Accelerator will continue to define the next era of security and technology, keep America competitive on the global playing field, and draw more of the world’s brightest minds to work here in Central New York.”

Oneida County has solidified itself as the epicenter for next-level technological research and development, Oneida County Executive Anthony J. Picente Jr. said. “Our investment at Griffiss International Airport has led to major innovation and advancement in the field of UAS and that is continuing at the Innovare Advancement Center with cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, and quantum computing,” said Picente. “The HUSTLE Defense Accelerator is the latest chapter in how, along with partners like the Griffiss Institute, we are rewriting the book on building business around the defense and security of this nation.”

Mayor Jacqueline M. Izzo said one of the most important functions of the Innovare Advancement Center is to promote technology startups utilizing the vast resources of Rome Lab and its partners to identify the entrepreneurs that will lead the region into the next decade.

The HUSTLE Defense Accelerator will be a new, unique approach to assisting entrepreneurs with a business track and a government track, something not done in prior competitions, competing for the ultimate investment of up to $300,000 to develop new business products right here in the city of Rome and Mohawk Valley region,” Izzo said.

“The Griffiss Institute is the perfect partner for HUSTLE as it offers a specialized mix of talent on a worldwide scale to advance and nurture new business ventures and encourage thinking ‘out of the box’ to continue growing our technology ecosystem,” the mayor added.

ESD Acting Commissioner and President & CEO-Designate Hope Knight said the Griffiss Institute’s HUSTLE Defense Accelerator will draw innovative tech startup talent to help further build the Mohawk Valley’s defense industry ecosystem.

“ESD is proud to support the development of in demand businesses that will create solutions for real world issues and increase New York State’s economic competitiveness as a growing hub for AI/ML, cyber, quantum and UAS,” Knight said.

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