As part of an effort to improve the efficiency, effectiveness and collaborative output of partnerships between CU Boulder’s nationally-ranked aerospace programs and small companies in Colorado serving the aerospace and defense sectors, the university held its first Small Business Forum on March 16.
The event, developed in response to inquiries from small businesses asking how to best engage with the university, was attended by representatives from 35 aerospace companies—as well as 25 students, who joined a panel discussion and informal networking session, where small business entrepreneurs fielded questions about the unique work environments and flexibility at their companies.
“Small business is the heart and soul of the dynamic aerospace economic business cluster in Colorado,” says Colorado Aerospace Champion Major General Jay Lindell, who encouraged the formation of the event. “Nearly eighty-five percent of our aerospace businesses in Colorado are small, and they are among the most innovative businesses advancing new technology to sustain growth in the state’s aerospace industry sector.”
The forum featured deep dives into contracting, Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs, workforce needs and career services, as well as an overview of CU Boulder’s robust research capabilities. Presentations by local partners—including Colorado’s Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC), the Boulder Small Business Development Council, and the Office of Economic Development and International Trade (OEDIT) Advanced Industries Program—rounded out an agenda designed to address the myriad questions that regional aerospace businesses have when considering a partnership with academia to achieve specific goals.
“The biggest takeaway for me was that CU has a lot to offer,” says Lindsey Holmes, Senior Systems Engineer for Analytical Mechanics Associates. “I didn’t realize how large the program is and how much the university is interested in working with industry for partnerships, internships and other opportunities. I see this as a great way forward.”
A facilitated session in the afternoon invited participants to offer feedback on what they viewed as the biggest opportunities and challenges that come with working alongside the university. Increased transparency on capabilities—as well as clarity surrounding how to get access to students, and how to best partner on opportunities with federal and large industry partners—were all key topics of discussion.
“CU Boulder has engaged in continuous process improvement over the past few years and has streamlined and simplified their contracting approach,” says Stanley O. Kennedy, Jr., President and Chief Systems Engineer at Oakman Aerospace. “The university works tirelessly with local small and medium enterprises to effectively and efficiently navigate the teaming processes that strengthen the Colorado aerospace ecosystem.”