I-Corps alumni company Empower Equity (EMPEQ) has been awarded a $1.2 million Direct-to-Phase II Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) contract from the Air Force’s AFWERX program, which supports technology innovations with air and space applications.
EMPEQ, a Rev: Ithaca Startup Works and Southern Tier Clean Energy Incubator member, developed the groundbreaking Instant Equipment Insights computer vision technology, which powers their innovative Fast Site Survey™. EMPEQ’s technology makes site surveys up to 80% more efficient by providing a streamlined, one-click method for capturing precise building equipment data; the innovation has the ability to address critical challenges within the Department of the Air Force (DAF) supply chain.
“This is a seminal moment for EMPEQ and its reputation,” said Herbert Dwyer, CEO of EMPEQ. “‘Direct to Phase II’ SBIR applications have about a 5% chance of success, so just being able to say that we were awarded this coveted contract provides instant credibility across the Department of Defense, the federal government, and with major government suppliers.”
The SBIR/STTR Assistance Program, supported by Empire State Development’s Division of Science, Technology and Innovation (NYSTAR), helped EMPEQ hire a qualified consultant to assist them in developing their successful application.
This contract marks a pivotal moment for EMPEQ — a startup co-founded by military veteran and Native American entrepreneurs — in contributing to national security efforts. Dwyer initially worked as a National Security Agency-tasked cryptanalyst in the Marine Corps, and COO Derek LaClair is a member of the Kanienʼkehá:ka Nation.
“We both had formative experiences in our respective circumstances that continue to shape our company’s outlook and its goals,” said Dwyer.
Instant Equipment Insights promises to enhance efficiency and safety within the military’s supply chain. By providing real-time insights and solutions to challenges faced by the DAF, EMPEQ is on track to enhance national defense efforts.
“The DAF has over one million suppliers in their supply chain, and the task of tracking parts entering the chain, identifying defective components, and ordering replacement parts is still done manually,” LaClair said. “Our initial project will give the DAF the ability to accomplish all of these items on a subset of the parts in their supply chain with just one click of a camera from a secure edge device. Initial conversations suggest that users will experience an incredible 97%-time savings over any substitute solution.”
EMPEQ’s selection comes as a result of the collaboration between the Air Force Research Laboratory and AFWERX, aimed at streamlining the SBIR and STTR process. By accelerating the small business experience, expanding opportunities, and eliminating bureaucratic overhead, this partnership has accelerated the path to impact for groundbreaking innovations like EMPEQ’s technology.
EMPEQ began exploring military applications for its technology this summer through the Griffis Institute’s 8-week HUSTLE Defense Accelerator, taking home the $150,000 grand prize at the accelerator’s Demo Day in August. Dwyer credited the program with helping EMPEQ break into the military market and secure the SBIR award.