AFRL Innovation Awards recognize excellence in tech transfer

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AFRL) – The Air Force Research Laboratory’s Directed Energy and Space Vehicles Directorates held their 2022 Innovation Awards ceremony in Albuquerque, Oct. 20, 2022, marking the fifth annual recognition of AFRL inventors and partners in technology transfer. Eight individual scientists, engineers, support staff members and one team, were honored as 2022 AFRL Innovation Award winners, with acknowledgments going to the noteworthy accomplishments of more than 20 other researchers.

The Air Force Research Laboratory, or AFRL, created the awards to recognize and inspire the laboratory’s inventors and collaborators who develop technologies in support of the nation’s defense and whose research promotes the transfer of technology to partners, academia and the private sector.

“AFRL has a long history of innovation,” said Sara Telano, the acting chief of AFRL’s Technology Outreach branch. “There’s a renewed focus on innovation within the Lab. That is, in part, because the pace of innovation is accelerating in the private sector and among our adversaries. To remain the technology leader, the DOD must innovate smarter and faster and when appropriate share those innovations with industry and academia.”

AFRL’s Technology Engagement Office hosted the event at its downtown location in Albuquerque, the Q Station, a facility where government, business and academic entities collaborate on new technology opportunities with a focus on aerospace and directed energy.

Telano said the Innovation Awards ceremony allows the lab to recognize and celebrate those leading the way in transferring technology to the private sector through patents and other mechanisms.

Dr. Wellesley Pereira, a senior scientist and mission lead at AFRL’s Space Vehicles Directorate, was one of this year’s honorees.

“I am honored to be a recipient of this year’s AFRL Excellence in Innovation award where I was recognized for establishing five Cooperative Research and Development Agreements with industry, academia and international allies for innovative solutions that could lead to mutual benefit for the other agencies and the U.S. government,” Pereira said.

Dr. Andreas Schmitt-Sody, the Directed Energy Directorate’s assistant chief scientist, and fellow researcher Capt. James Wymer were recognized for their work supporting the University of New Mexico’s coursework in optics and the donation of AFRL excess optics equipment to the university.

“AFRL as a research lab, creates and tests ideas to help solve problems and gaps the warfighter sees or may see in the future,” Schmitt-Sody said. “We can build prototypes and demonstrators, but AFRL is not the operator or manufacturer. Hence, it is important for us to transition our knowledge and technology to our partners who can. Those partners can then use or create a product that will advance our warfighting capabilities.”

Melissa Ortiz, who leads the Innovation Awards program and is the tech transfer and transition manager for agreements, commercialization and intellectual property for the New Mexico Tech Partnership Intermediary Agreement, emphasized the value of recognizing AFRL inventors for their valuable contributions.

“Technology transfer and transition helps AFRL scientists, engineers and technical staff meet their mission as we collaborate with industry and academia to bring innovative technology and ideas to the public and the warfighter, which are not always captured through typical contracting vehicles,” Ortiz said.

Col. Clark Allred, acting director of the AFRL Directed Energy Directorate and Quentin Dierks, chief engineer of the AFRL Space Vehicles Directorate, presented honorees with an engraved trophy.

The AFRL Directed Energy Directorate honorees include Waid Schlaegel, Dr. Andreas Schmitt-Sody, Joey Wells and Capt. James Wymer. The AFRL Space Vehicles Directorate honorees include Dr. Thomas Peng, Dr. Wellesley Pereira and Joseph “Dan” Trujillo. Partnership honorees included Dansil Green and her team from Space Systems Command, and Chastity Whitaker, Air Force Materiel Command Intellectual Property Law Division deputy chief.

About AFRL

The Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) is the primary scientific research and development center for the Department of the Air Force. AFRL plays an integral role in leading the discovery, development, and integration of affordable warfighting technologies for our air, space, and cyberspace force. With a workforce of more than 11,500 across nine technology areas and 40 other operations across the globe, AFRL provides a diverse portfolio of science and technology ranging from fundamental to advanced research and technology development. For more information, visit:

image of award presentation

Quentin Dierks, Air Force Research Laboratory, or AFRL, Space Vehicles Directorate chief engineer, presents Dr. Wellesley Pereira, Space Vehicles Directorate senior scientist and mission lead, with a 2022 Innovation Award for Excellence in Technology Transfer at AFRL’s Innovation Awards ceremony in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Oct. 20, 2022. AFRL established these awards to recognize and inspire the laboratory’s inventors and collaborators who develop technologies in support of the nation’s defense and whose research promotes the transfer of technology to partners, academia and the private sector. (U.S. Air Force photo/Jeanne Dailey)