Large Seattle Crowd Kicks off DARPA’s Robotics Fast Track West Coast Tour
Seattle’s robotics and entrepreneur community showed up in force Tuesday night to kick off the DARPA Robotics Fast Track West Coast Tour with an engaged discussion about the program and the opportunities to receive government funding for robotics projects.
Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Program Manager Mark Micire told the crowd of about 90 roboticists, researchers and entrepreneurs in attendance how they could qualify for a contract that would pay them up to $150,000 to develop a robot prototype.
“We are looking for truly revolutionary ideas,” Micire said Tuesday night at The Maker’s Space in downtown Seattle. He explained that DARPA wants the program to help agency officials uncover the projects and research being developed in robotics outside the government.
Micire told the crowd how the agency developed the Robotics Fast Track Program in response to feedback from companies and innovators that DARPA needed to streamline its acquisition process in order to make working with the government more viable for startups.
DARPA partnered with Open Source Robotics Foundation and BIT Systems to make the application process more accessible. In fact, applicants will likely find out if DARPA is interested in their proposal in under two weeks. The goal then is to get funding to the companies and start working under the contract within 60 days.
The fast track program falls under the growing initiative within the Pentagon to engage the commercial tech community outside the typical defense industrial players. The week long West Coast Tour was launched to attract the innovators and companies who might not have thought of the government as a potential customer. The large turnout in Seattle showed the level of interest that does exist.
Attendees had the opportunity to meet Micire for private meetings after the first half of the event to address specific questions regarding their projects. Many in attendance took the opportunity and Micire said he was impressed with the wide range of robotics research and businesses in Seattle.
Britt Kelley, the Unmanned Systems Integration manager at the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, was in attendance Tuesday night and explained to the crowd how the Robotics Fast Track Program could be just the first step toward receiving multiple government contracts. He said it doesn’t end with DARPA and many agencies like DTRA are always scouting other programs to see if the technology being developed could help their communities.
For more information on the program and the application process, visit the DARPA Robotics Fast Track Program website.