xTechSearch Links Small Businesses to the Army

David Schoenberger, founder and chief innovation officer of Eclypses, delivers his pitch to a panel of judges during xTechSearch 3.0 in Frederick on Wednesday, August 7, 2019. Photo by Jon Bleiweis, APG News

FREDERICK, Md. — The U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command’s Army Research Laboratory is involved in helping select what could be the Army’s next great innovation.

CCDC ARL members are helping evaluate submissions in the third iteration of the Army Expeditionary Technology Search. Also known as xTechSearch 3.0, the search is a national competition to find small businesses with novel technology solutions to Army issues. The competition is sponsored by the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology.

Zeke Topolosky, a xTechSearch program manager, said the competition was designed to help break down perceived barriers between government and small businesses.

“The goal is to take the best things we find and integrate them through the ecosystem and transition the technology into the Army,” he said.

The contest has four phases. After each phase, the number of competitors narrows down until the end of the final phase, when a winner is selected. The winner receives a $250,000 cash prize.

The competition made a stop in Maryland last week, as xTechSearch 3.0 held a Phase II event in Frederick, Aug. 6-7. Businesses had 30 minutes to present their pitches to a panel of Army subject matter experts and take questions. The Frederick event is one of three Phase II events in xTechSearch 3.0 taking place this month, the others are in Chicago and Burlington, Massachusetts.

The entries are evaluated on the feasibility of the technology and how well it meets Army needs. 

Up to 24 entries will advance to the next phase, which takes place in October at the 2019 AUSA Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C. The entries that advance will be announced Aug. 19. The final phase will be held at the AUSA Global Force meeting in Huntsville, Alabama in March 2020.

Maj. Kevin McAdoo, network integration officer for the AFC Futures Concept Center, Futures Integration Directorate, Mission Command Division, was on the panel Aug. 7. He said he gave his input based on his experiences during his 16-year Army career.

“What I’m looking for is how does it apply to the operational Army, how does it apply in the hands of Soldiers that will be utilizing these capabilities on a daily basis,” he said. “At the end of the day, we are trying to make life a lot easier for our Soldiers. We are in the business of ensuring Soldiers have exactly what they need when conducting missions.”

Rosnell Grant, Jr., industry engagement coordinator for the AFC’s Futures and Concepts Center, has been a judge for all three xTechSearch events. He said it’s rewarding to interact with the companies and direct them toward helping the warfighter.

“This is the only venue that I know of that takes raw technologies and then puts them in a venue to have [Army] leadership hear them [and] assess them. And then, we can give them guidance on where to go next,” he said.

David Schoenberger, founder and chief innovation officer of the Colorado Springs, Colorado-based cybersecurity firm Eclypses presented his company’s MicroToken Exchange technology to the panel.

Schoenberger said he enjoyed the process of having a conversation with Army personnel, rather than the traditional white paper or submission approach, because it gave him the chance to interact directly with decision makers, hear viewpoints and address them.

“Being able to provide the live demonstration to the panel really offers a tremendous impact in understanding for them to see it working live,” said David Gomes, Eclypses chief revenue officer. “You’ll never get that from a white paper.”

The day included an education session in which the participants were briefed by the Army Office of Small Business Programs, the Army Technology Transfer office and the Army’s Open Campus Program. 

xTechSearch 2.0, which started in November 2018, is still ongoing. It’s down to 12 finalists who will present their proof-of-concept to a panel of Army subject matter experts during the 2019 AUSA Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C. in October.