DoD program moves to Orlando, opens Artificial Intelligence (AI) contract opportunities for local firms (by Alex Soderstrom)

Orlando companies will be close to the action of an emerging defense program that will offer business opportunities in the fast-growing artificial intelligence field.

The team that oversees procurement for the experimental U.S. Department of Defense program is moving to Central Florida Research Park, said Kevin Mikalsen, director of military, academia and business collaboration center Central Florida Tech Grove. This puts local contractors interested in winning federal government business closer to the program’s key players.

The program, called Tradewind, was launched earlier this year when the Department of Defense’s Joint Artificial Intelligence Center tapped the Indiana Innovation Institute to manage an initiative that allows the DoD to buy artificial intelligence solutions faster and more efficiently. The Joint Artificial Intelligence Center’s procurement team later began relocating to Orlando to tap into the region’s $6 billion modeling, simulation and training industry.

The arrival of the procurement team in the region is a benefit for companies in Central Florida, such as AI defense contractor Soar Technology Inc. It helps the Ann Arbor, Michigan-based company, which has an Orlando office, better understand how the new program operates and how it will acquire solutions from companies, Director of Strategic Partnerships Teresa Speck told Orlando Business Journal. 

Military contracts are important because they contribute to the local economy in the form of jobs and subcontractor opportunities. Metro Orlando companies were awarded roughly $6 billion in federal contracts in fiscal 2020, according to federal contracting data.

Interested companies can register to be part of Tradewind on the program’s website.  There are at least nine projects worth more than $74 million in the program’s pipeline, according to a June 30 presentation in Orlando.


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