NEWS | Aug. 6, 2021

Sparking Innovation Across the Pacific

By Tech. Sgt. Anthony Nelson Jr. 15th Wing

Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii -- Education, collaboration, and connection brought together seven innovation units from around the Pacific for the first-ever PACAF Innovation Conference with the aim of driving the Air Force into the future.

Innovation units, or Spark Cells, provide Airmen the opportunity and the resources to solve problems with their own ideas and have the possibility to take their ideas Air Force-wide.

“This is a grassroots conference,” said Maj. Nicholas Votipka, 15th Wing chief of innovation. “An event like this allows for the seven Spark Cells around the Pacific to receive education, collaborate, and connect with other Spark Cells to more effectively deliver innovative ideas and solutions to wing commanders.”

Spark leverages the ingenuity of Air Force intrapreneurs at the base level and non-traditional partners to create unique opportunities for the military’s operational experts to collaborate with the top problem solvers in industry, academia, and the government.

"You need an organization like spark cells that can see and work to solve an organizational problem from within,” said Brig. Gen. Michael Winkler, PACAF director of strategic plans, requirements, and programs. “These cells can take good ideas from a customer and help bring them to fruition.”

The conference not only connected cells from around the Pacific, but also featured leaders within the innovation industry and allowed members to try a virtual-reality simulation program.

As the conference concluded, Spark Cell members received tools to better assist their teams in developing actionable items for problems that impact Airmen.

“When we talk about innovation we often think about big projects and spending money,” said Lt. Col. Daniel Watson, 15th Healthcare Operations Squadron commander. “Innovation happens when we’re not afraid to fail forward.’

‘Inspire, empower, give clear intent, and getting out of the way, allows our Airmen to innovate more freely.”