United States Special Operations Command (SOCOM), located on MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida is responsible for all Special Operations Forces (SOF) operating around the world.
From its roots in the legendary Office of Strategic Services (OSS) in World War II, USSOCOM champions a culture that embraces and supports innovation in research and development, operations, and bringing diverse communities together to rapidly invent and field new capabilities.
USSOCOM recognized that it was becoming difficult to reach entrepreneurs, small businesses, and creative talent outside the traditional defense industry market, as well as have a place where the SOF operator, acquirer, and inventor could collaborate and think about the challenges of the future.To address this issue, SOCOM created SOFWERX,a unique collaboration venue designed to bring academia, companies, individuals and other “non-traditional” Department of Defense (DoD) business partners to work on SOCOM’s most challenging problems. The goal was to create a place where we could harvest the “return on collision” by bringing a diverse set of experts together to rapidly solve problems, as well as reduce barriers to enable anyone with an idea to collaborate with USSOCOM.
Located in the second oldest building in downtown Ybor City, SOFWERX fills the brick-lined halls where famous revolutionary thinkers and world leaders such as President “Teddy” Roosevelt, President Grover Cleveland, and Sir Winston Churchill once passed their time.
Today, SOFWERX attracts hacker/makers, university students and professors, Tampa Bay inventors and small businesses to support the U.S. military’s Special Operations Forces. An interactive venue for innovative ideas, SOFWERX has become the premier incubator for innovative thinking in Tampa Bay, conducting design thinking sessions, technology sprints, rapid prototyping, and other events with government, academia, technologists and business experts from the local Tampa Bay area.
SOFWERX was established under a Partnership Intermediary Agreement (PIA) with the Doolittle Institute, a Florida-based non-profit organization, in September 2015. Through regular events and collaboration at SOFWERX, SOCOM connects with a variety of academic organizations, including a very close relationship with the University of South Florida (USF). College interns, industry fellows, graduate students, collegiate faculty, startups, and foreign partners also collaborate on a daily basis in this truly unique innovation environment.
SOFWERX hosts several types of events at the Ybor City location to get the “best of breed” innovative ideas and emerging technologies, including prize challenges, hackathons, and collaboration sessions. SOFWERX also supports local Tampa Bay Science, Technology,Engineering and Math (STEM) education and training, leveraging the incredible talents of the next generation.
SOFWERX, and the collaboration it has inspired in the Tampa community, has become the recognized standard of how the military, academia, entrepreneurs, traditional defense suppliers, and every day citizens can work together to create immense value in numerous ways – improving capabilities for our military and first responders, improving education of our high school and college students, providing access to new markets for start-ups and small businesses.