Air Force Launches Project Aimed at Supporting Airmen Innovations

Hoping to speed up and expand innovation, the Air Force announced July 13 the launch of Project Holodeck, a platform aimed at allowing Airmen to better submit, track, test, and ultimately implement new ideas for the service.

The Department of the Air Force is partnering with “innovation management software” startup Productable to launch the program, which will be accessible via the internet. 

Project Holodeck will unfold in two phases: first, a prototyping contract with Air Force CyberWorx, a public-private center at the Air Force Academy devoted to identifying problems and developing solutions in the cyber realm. The next phase will include a development and pilot program, with the end goal of scaling the program across the entire service.

The effort comes a little less than a year after Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr. and his office released a strategic approach titled “Accelerate Change or Lose,” in which he emphasized the need to empower, innovative Airmen helping to solve the service’s issues.

Project Holodeck is aimed at promoting that idea. Airmen will be able to submit ideas for improvements and will be directed to the proper experts and resources to potentially develop and test innovations, with time and money more efficiently distributed. 

With more clearly defined expectations and processes, transparency is a key selling point of the new project, Air Force Vice Chief of Staff Gen. David W. Allvin said in a press release. Airmen submitting innovations and their superiors will be able to track their progress on the new platform.

“Intentionally, innovation is decentralized across the Air Force and intertwined throughout all of our units. Airmen are the service’s greatest resource and are empowered to develop solutions to a wide spectrum of problems,” Allvin said in a statement. “However, our decentralized models sometimes create unintentional barriers to success. Project Holodeck will provide the transparency and accountability needed to overcome those roadblocks and move innovative ideas forward.”

The idea of turning to Airmen to crowdsource problems is not new—the Air Force introduced the Airmen Powered by Innovation program in 2014, with service members submitting thousands of ideas for “cost, time, and resource savings.”

But as the service looks to increase its pace in that regard, the goal of Project Holodeck is to keep up with the flow of ideas.

“​​The Chief of Staff’s message is clear,” said Wm. Brou Gautier, director of Continuous Improvement and Innovation and Spark Tank capability lead for the Air Force, in a statement. “It’s time for all Airmen to pick up the pace and Project Holodeck will allow us to manage that pace for efficient leadership decision-making.”