OSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea --
“From the first moment of independence, the United States has been dedicated to innovation as a way of government and a way of life.”
– Robert F. Kennedy, American politician
Airmen of the 694th Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Group took that idea to heart when they began planning and constructing the first military-focused innovation lab on the Korean peninsula at Osan Air Base.
“The Korea Innovation and Research Center is part of the 480th Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Wing’s push to get Airmen to go outside of the boundaries of the usual mission sets,” said Capt. David Berry, 303rd Intelligence Squadron flight commander. “The KIRC gives them the technological equipment and the space that they need to help them build projects to help further the mission. We provided them with computers, virtual reality headsets, whiteboards and 3D printers, and we gave them a place to unleash their creativity that’s outside of the workspace.”
The purpose of the lab, and others like it across the Air Force, is to give ISRG Airmen the tools and supplies they require to drive innovation, enhance their mission and provide solutions to problems unique to their jobs.
“The Airmen know the job, they know what they’re looking for, and they know what works for them,” said Master Sgt. Emil Lewis, 303rd IS program management office assistant section chief. “Instead of contracting outside of the Air Force to come up with a product that is a half-solution to what they wanted, they’re creating a full solution because the actual subject matter experts are developing the software.”
Planning for the lab began in August 2017 with the actual construction beginning in April 2018. The KIRC opened its doors officially on June 26 with a ceremony and ribbon cutting followed by a tour of the workspace.
Once a storage room, the newly designated innovation lab received a full makeover – from steam cleaning the carpet to a new paint job and a decal of Capt. James T. Kirk – a play on the lab’s name. The design of the room was influenced by work spaces such as those at Google and Samsung with a focus on functionality and a welcoming environment.
“It’s a space that is free from the normal military office environment,” said Lewis.
While the cost of the lab was estimated at $15,000, there is no doubt the processes and products to come from the KIRC will save the Air Force multiple times that, said Berry.