NIA News Release 2017-06: U.S. Department of Commerce Invests $499K to Support Entrepreneurship Efforts in Hampton Roads

NIA News Release 2017-06: U.S. Department of Commerce Invests $499K to Support Entrepreneurship Efforts in Hampton Roads

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                         September 21, 2017

Harla Sherwood
National Institute of Aerospace, Hampton, Va.

NIA Release: 2017-06


U.S. Department of Commerce Invests $499K to Support Entrepreneurship Efforts in Hampton Roads

The U.S. Department of Commerce announced that the National Institute of Aerospace, NIA, located in Hampton, Va., has been awarded a $499,833 i6 Challenge grant.  NIA partnered with local investment group 757 Angels and economic development organization Reinvent Hampton Roads to propose the 757 Accelerate program.

The 757 Accelerate proposal was the only successful application from Virginia, competing against more than 200 applicants from nonprofits, institutions of higher education, and entrepreneurship-focused organizations in 28 states. “We are thrilled that NIA can have a role in this project.  We anticipate that the 757 Accelerator will help create at least 15 new viable companies in the area, contributing more than 100 new jobs to our local economy,” said James Closs, NIA Director of Research Program Development.

This accelerator program will operate as a mentor-driven, selective program focused on connecting promising startup and early stage companies in emerging technology sectors with vetted mentors, investors, support services, and educational opportunities throughout the region.  Daniel Morris, Executive Director of NIA’s REaKTOR Business Technology Innovation Center and Program Manager for the i6 Challenge Grant, said, “This is the first time regional leaders have set aside barriers on a venture of this magnitude.  By collaborating, we have found a way to coalesce unique regional resources, investors, mentorship, and research opportunities to create the environment we need to grow a world-class entrepreneurial ecosystem.”

“The coveted i6 Challenge grants are awarded to capacity-building projects aimed at increasing regional entrepreneurship through support of innovation, research, and technology commercialization programs,” said Evans McMillion, Vice President of Research and Strategy at Reinvent Hampton Roads.  The 757 Accelerate submission was backed by an unprecedented coalition of regional partners that formed a winning combination.  More than 50 organizations came together to pledge support for this venture, but the core partners included five cities: Chesapeake, Hampton, Newport News, Norfolk, and Portsmouth; four universities:  Christopher Newport University, Eastern Virginia Medical School, Norfolk State University, and Old Dominion University; and one corporate sponsor, Towne Bank.  “The award of this grant is not just a happy ending, but rather an exciting beginning.  The real story here is the collaboration that will grow the economic diversity of not only Hampton Roads, but Southeastern Virginia,” says 757 Angels Executive Director Monique Adams.  “This award underscores the fact that we are stronger and better when we work together.  Our core partners’ belief in that collaborative ethos is what got us here, but it is their continued support that will help translate this win into real economic momentum for Hampton Roads,” said McMillion.

The Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship (OIE), housed within the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA), leads the Regional Innovation Strategies Program to spur innovation capacity-building activities in regions across the nation. The program is authorized through the America COMPETES reauthorization Act of 2010, and has received dedicated appropriations since FY2014.

To learn more about the Regional Innovation Strategies program and the awardee projects, visit:

Monique Adams
757 Angels, Inc., Hampton, Va.

Evans McMillion
Reinvent Hampton Roads, Hampton, Va.

Daniel Morris
National Institute of Aerospace, Hampton, Va.

NIA News Release 2017-05: NASA Calls for Ideas to Enhance Future Space Exploration with Next iTech Challenge

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                                         September 15, 2017

Timothy Allen
National Institute of Aerospace, Hampton, Va.

NIA Release: 2017-05

NASA Calls for Ideas to Enhance Future Space Exploration with Next iTech Challenge

A new cycle of the NASA iTech initiative kicks off today with a call for technical solutions to fill gaps in areas identified as having a critical impact on future space exploration.

The request for a five-page white paper is the first phase of NASA iTech Cycle 3, part of a collaborative initiative to find and foster innovative solutions from small and large businesses, universities, non-profits, U.S. government organizations outside of NASA and undiscovered inventors. Inventors and entrepreneurs can enter NASA iTech Cycle 3 at the NASA iTech website through Oct. 20, 2017.

“Since December 2016, NASA iTech has had 20 entrepreneurs across the U.S. present their innovative solutions to solving some of the toughest challenges here on Earth and in space,” said Kira Blackwell, Innovation program executive in the Space Technology Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “There is no other forum where entrepreneurs have an opportunity to present their technologies and engage with the NASA chief technologists, potential investors from outside of the agency, and industry partners.”

The technology focus areas for NASA iTech Cycle 3 are: artificial intelligence, augmented reality advancement, autonomy, high-performance computing, and medical breakthrough. The popular Cycle 2 category, X-Factor innovations, has been kept for Cycle 3 to allow for groundbreaking ideas or technology that may not align precisely with another specific focus area, but could still make a significant impact on future exploration efforts.

9-15-2017 Untitled NASA iTech Cycle 3 Timeline Slide


The NASA iTech white paper and application process makes it easy for anyone with potential solutions to participate. A panel of subject matter experts will review ideas submitted within the application window for Cycle 3 and down-select the top 10 finalists based on their relevance and potential impact in the technology focus areas. The top 10 finalists will be invited to present their ideas to NASA’s top technologists, space industry leaders and potential investors at the NASA iTech Cycle 3 Forum, slated for late January 2018.

“This forum has proven to be a successful model for stimulating the development of groundbreaking technologies, without the government being the early investor,” said Blackwell. “At the current rate, these companies are on track to raise over $50 million dollars in private funds by December of this year. I can hardly wait to see the outcome from Cycle 3.”

NASA iTech is an initiative by the NASA Space Technology Mission Directorate and managed by the National Institute of Aerospace in Hampton, Virginia.

For information about the NASA iTech initiative, visit:

For information about the Space Technology Mission Directorate, visit:

Gina Anderson
Headquarters, Washington


NIA News Release 2017-04: NASA Seeking BIG Ideas for Solar Power on Mars

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                                         July 24, 2017

Bianca Clark
National Institute of Aerospace, Hampton, Va.

NIA Release: 2017-04

NASA Seeking BIG Ideas for Solar Power on Mars

Missions to the surface of distant planetary bodies require power — lots of power.  Through the 2018 Breakthrough, Innovative, and Game-changing (BIG) Idea Challenge, NASA is enlisting university students in its quest for efficient, reliable and cost-effective solar power systems that can operate on Mars both day and night.

The teams will have until November to submit their proposals. Interested teams of three to five undergraduate and/or graduate students are asked to submit robust proposals and a two-minute video describing their concepts by Nov. 30.

NASA’s Game Changing Development Program (GCD), managed by the agency’s Space Technology Mission Directorate, and the National Institute of Aerospace (NIA) are seeking novel concepts that emphasize innovative mechanical design, low mass and high efficiency, with operational approaches that assure sustained power generation on the Mars surface for many years.

It’s not easy to harness the power of the sun from Mars. Depending on where spacecraft land, the angle and distance from the sun changes substantially during different seasons, affecting solar power flow management and performance. Martian dust is also a threat. It clings to everything on the surface and could form a blanket over solar panels.

The goal is to have a reliable operating power source in place before astronauts ever step foot on the surface of Mars. That means solar array designs will need to fit compactly into a single cargo launch, have the capability to deploy robotically on the surface, and begin producing power soon after landing.

The 2018 BIG Idea Challenge invites teams and their faculty advisors to work together to design and analyze innovations in the design, installation, and sustainable operation of a large solar power system on the surface of Mars, in the following areas:

  • Novel packaging, deployment, retraction, and dust-abatement concepts
  • Lightweight, compact components including booms, ribs, substrates, and mechanisms
  • Optimized use of advanced ultra-lightweight materials and high efficiency solar cells
  • Validated modeling, analysis, and simulation techniques
  • High-fidelity, functioning laboratory models and test methods

From these proposals, NASA and industry experts will select four teams to continue developing their proposed concepts, submit a technical paper, and present their concepts in a face-to-face design review at the 2018 BIG Idea Forum, held at a NASA center in early March 2018. Each of these four teams will receive a $6,000 stipend to participate in the forum.

Student members from the BIG Idea Challenge winning team will receive offers to participate in paid summer internships at either NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio, or Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, where they will continue developing their concept under the mentorship of NASA experts.

For more information about the challenge, and details on how to apply, visit the BIG Idea website at:

For more information about NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate, go to:



Joe Atkinson
Langley Research Center, Hampton, Va.

Shelley Spears
National Institute of Aerospace, Hampton, Va.



100 Exploration Way
Hampton, VA 23666