TAMPA — U.S. Special Operations Command, which spends billions every year on goods and services for special operators, is one of the biggest magnets for industry and innovation in the Tampa Bay area.
That attraction will play out once again at this week's Defense Innovation Summit, being held Oct. 3-5 at the Tampa Convention Center. Organizers bill it as the nation's largest tech matchmaking program, linking the Pentagon to private sector innovators and funders to help fill technology gaps.
This is the fifth year for the event, but its first time in Tampa.
"We moved the conference to Tampa from Austin to better serve the military's growing technology needs and Tampa's proximity to SOCom and MacDill Air Force Base," said Regina Ramazzini, an event spokeswoman. "Tampa is the ideal epicenter to link the U.S. Department of Defense's massive innovation needs with global private sector solution providers."
The summit is expected to remain in Tampa through 2019, Ramazzini said.
James "Hondo" Geurts, SOCom's head of acquisition, is among the featured speakers Tuesday.
The three-day summit is expected to draw about 1,500 attendees, Ramazzini said, and will feature a wide array of panels and challenges in five themes — innovation, energy and resilience, big data, artificial intelligence and systems, medical and space.
Among the topics to be discussed are an examination of the fight against the so-called Islamic State and a look at the future, how to counter drones, how to protect U.S. infrastructure from cyber attacks and how military bases like MacDill can serve as engines for mutually beneficial public-private partnerships.
In addition to the panel discussions and challenges, the exhibition hall will feature good and services provided by about 200 vendors, Ramazzini said.
The summit dovetails with efforts already underway at SOCom, like the Sofwerx incubator in Ybor City, that bring together innovators, academics and businesses to help solve technology gaps identified by warfighters.
For more information about the summit and attendance, go to http://defenseinnovation.us/.
Contact Howard Altman at [email protected] or (813) 225-3112. Follow @haltman.