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NEWS | Dec. 5, 2022

AFWERX Refinery supports Airman, Guardian innovators

By Katie Milligan and Kacey Napier AFWERX

Editor’s note: This is part one of a three-part series about the AFWERX Refinery program. Part one provides general information and a basic introduction to the Refinery. Part two will focus on how the Refinery addresses the Secretary of the Air Force Operational Imperatives, or OIs, and Part three will focus on highlighting specific Refinery projects and success stories.

The Refinery program, an initiative of AFWERX’s Spark division, will host its seventh cohort of Airmen and Guardians for a four-week, hybrid Accelerator program in February 2023 to target grassroots efforts within the Department of the Air Force and rapidly advance innovative projects that directly aid warfighters.

“The Refinery gives us a platform to help develop the intrapreneur behind the idea, to deliberately connect to exquisite talent in our research labs, and to remove barriers to adoption,” said Col. Martin Salinas, AFWERX Spark division chief.
The Refinery connects Airmen and Guardian innovators with relevant stakeholders and resources in the Department of Defense to develop their grassroots projects. The principal objective is to further develop tactical project prototypes and adopt the right operational capabilities into the larger force. This is made possible through the Refinery's curated process, partnerships and refinement of the ecosystem's acquisition pipeline.
The Refinery operates in a four-week framework. During the first two weeks, the pre-work stage, Airmen and Guardians, called founders, meet virtually to develop as project managers and prepare projects for acceleration. Week 3 is spent in Dayton, Ohio to focus on connecting the founders with relevant requirements owners, as well as getting plugged into the broader science and technology ecosystem.
For the final week, the founders travel to Washington, D.C. to meet with headquarters stakeholders and potential champions in the National Capital Region, as well as any Joint Program Offices and Joint partners that may benefit from or fund projects.
Following this intensive four weeks of development, post-work takes place for six to 12 weeks, during which AFWERX staff continue to evaluate progress, support founders, and stay up to date on which projects are strong candidates to move forward in the innovation pipeline. 
The Refinery’s sixth cohort began Oct. 24, 2022, with four project teams across four bases. To date this year, the program has supported 11 projects in its five months of operation as it developed curriculum and processes to best meet the needs of the projects. The intrapreneur teams of the fifth cohort, which just concluded in October, met virtually with Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force JoAnne S. Bass.
“As we look toward the future, the Air Force we need will be built by those Airmen with a pioneering, entrepreneurial and innovative spirit,” Bass said. “We need to continue to identify those talented Airmen and cultivate their ability to bring change to our service.”
AFWERX and Morpheus partnered in April 2022 to establish the Refinery to support grassroots projects. Morpheus is an innovation team under the Vice Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. David W. Allvin. Within this team, Maj. Loren Faire is assigned to the Refinery program to focus on maturation and sustained integration. 
“This mix of bottom-up innovation coupled with top-down strategic alignment should help these projects better integrate, garner support and transition into the wider ecosystem,” Faire said.
Stay tuned for upcoming releases with further information on how the Refinery addresses the Secretary of the Air Force’s Operational Imperatives and the Chief of Staff of the Air Force’s Action Orders, as well as highlighted Refinery projects that have successfully transitioned. To learn more and submit project ideas to the Refinery, visit
About AFRL
The Air Force Research Laboratory, or AFRL, is the primary scientific research and development center for the Department of the Air Force. AFRL plays an integral role in leading the discovery, development, and integration of affordable warfighting technologies for our air, space, and cyberspace force. With a workforce of more than 11,500 across nine technology areas and 40 other operations across the globe, AFRL provides a diverse portfolio of science and technology ranging from fundamental to advanced research and technology development. For more information, visit:   
AFWERX is an Air Force Research Laboratory Directorate that connects innovators across government, industry and academia. Through innovation and collaboration with our nation’s top subject-matter experts, AFWERX harnesses the power of ingenuity of internal talent while expanding technology, talent and transition partnerships for rapid and affordable commercial and military capability. Additional information is available at:
About Spark
Spark connects Airman and Guardians to commercial innovators using virtual collaboration, immersive training and networking opportunities to inspire ideas and cultivate a more creative force. By connecting operators closer to acquisition processes, Spark provides both a voice and a conduit to turn powerful ideas into game-changing operational realities.  Additional information is available at: