The Central Florida Tech Grove held its first “Innovation Marketplace,” on Sept. 19, 2023. It is part of a new series of innovation and networking events for modeling, simulation and training (MS&T) professionals.


Dr. Tracy Boyd, Tech Grove’s SBIR/STTR outreach coordinator, described the Innovation Marketplace as an event that enables the Department of Defense (DoD) and industry to connect and help the DoD see different, innovative technologies that small businesses are developing. The firms represented were a mixture of local and non-local companies. Boyd said the technologies showcased will expedite warfighters’ readiness, make them better prepared, and more capable of working in the field quicker and safer.


“The companies here are some of the most innovative in the MS&T business,” Boyd said. “They’re doing things like weather simulations, cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, machine learning, and rapid deployment – and that’s difficult to find anywhere else. One of the big reasons we’re doing [this event] is to get those innovations out to MS&T professionals who need to see this amazing technology that’s on the forefront of development.”


Engineering and Computer Simulations (ECS) came out of the University of Central Florida’s business incubator 26 years ago and primarily focuses on using game-based technology for training. ECS’ booth demonstrated a medical simulator that featured a mixed-reality, head-mounted display, and haptic technology.


“We’re bringing a new dimension into [medical training] with haptic gloves,” said Waymon Armstrong, ECS founder and CEO. “No one’s done more research and development in using haptics, especially in the medical field for training. We’re partnering with the Simulation Technology Training Center and medical subject matter experts at the Mayo Clinic, and what you’re seeing here has a lot to offer telemedicine and commercial applications.”


Rake Technologies Inc. develops exoskeleton and prosthetic and actuator systems to help individuals who need more physical strength in their work, according to Evan Raketic, the company’s founder and CEO. Raketic said his company attended the Innovation Marketplace to educate people on what exoskeleton and prosthetic systems look like in reality and exemplify what exoskeletons can be in a collaborative environment.


“We brought a prosthetic actuator system and an exoskeleton actuator system that mimics isometric muscle mass,” Raketic said. “The goal is to help individuals who are performing manual labor or labor-intensive activities, who are running and need to run a little further, need a little more muscle mass in their quadriceps or hamstrings, or are performing logistics-related tasks like carrying boxes.”


Going forward, Innovation Marketplaces are expected to provide continued opportunities for business leaders looking to interface with DoD officials and collaborate with other peer companies in the DoD ecosystem. Boyd said Innovation Marketplaces will resemble events that are more freeform and less curated than other MS&T gatherings. Attendees can come any time during the event and talk directly to the companies and C-level executives.


“These are really good industry programs,” Boyd said. “They get you right in front of your clients, customers, and the market. I’ve seen partnerships form from these kinds of events.”


Raketic said he was impressed with the professional crowd who attended the Tech Grove gathering.


“This event has drawn many accredited individuals who are incredibly knowledgeable about the systems here and the complex technologies they interact with on a daily basis,” Raketic said. “[This audience] knows how to improve technologies to assist the warfighter.”


Similar to many industries, the MS&T community is still feeling the lingering aftereffects of the COVID pandemic that suspended in-person events. Armstrong said that events like the Innovation Marketplace is a way to continue restoring normalcy after the COVID slowdown.


“Like everybody else, we’re trying to get plugged back into the community and get some face-to-face dialogue,” Armstrong said. “Before I/ITSEC comes up, this is how we can show everyone what we’re working on and see what other folks are doing. We’re excited to be back and engaged as part of the community.”


The next Innovation Marketplace is tentatively scheduled for January 2024.


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