SDI Reception


Applications for the SDI Ignite Awards are now open. We are looking for the most interesting space and defense technologies from startups to established firms. A panel of space and defense industry experts will evaluate applicants, choosing two finalists per award category.

Calling all Space and
Defense Innovators


The Space and Defense Innovation Showcase and SDI Ignite Awards aim to recognize and celebrate the most groundbreaking technologies and solutions throughout the space and defense sectors. Sponsored by Second Front, the competition focuses on five of the OUSD(R&E) technology categories and is held in two phases.

The online portion of the competition will take place on Valid Eval’s secure, online evaluation platform. Companies will compete based on company size and sector, resulting in two finalists from each category being selected.

The two finalists will then face off in a live, on-stage demo competition, with the winners being crowned during the Space and Defense Innovation VIP Reception on March 9, 2024, in Austin, Texas!

These awards offer a great opportunity for participants to gain industry recognition, attract potential investors, and receive media coverage.

Applications for the SDI Ignite Awards are open and will close on December 15, 2023 at midnight.

Award Categories Include

Overall Best in Show

Honors the single most impactful innovation presented at the event, irrespective of industry focus or company size.

Best Startup Innovation

Recognizes startups (under $20M in annual revenue) that present a promising and innovative solution.

Best Established Company Innovation

Celebrates established companies (over $21M in annual revenue) for exceptional innovation.

Integrated Sensing and Cyber

Technologies that foster seamless integration between sensors and the digital landscape, as well as defensive and offensive cybersecurity products. This category covers technologies that can protect the nation from cyber threats and solutions geared towards electronic warfare, radar, and multi-functional sensors for a secure operational edge. Companies with applications in data collection, management, organization and big data, including simulation, analysis, presentation, interpretation, security, and augmentation, who have traditionally only worked in the commercial sector are encouraged to apply.

Space Technology

Technologies advancing space-based communication, navigation, operations, and life beyond Earth. Companies that are driving innovation to enable robust space architectures, better operations, autonomy, space situational awareness, and on-orbit processing are encouraged to apply. Companies in this realm may have innovative commercial solutions that could be applied to the space sector or come from traditional cross-over industries such as aerospace, telecommunications, mining, and defense.

AI and Autonomy

Technologies expanding operational capabilities through artificial intelligence and autonomous systems, focusing on evidence-based assurance and operational effectiveness. Companies could be developing AI-driven systems and analysis tools that use new technologies to solve problems more efficiently. This category also looks at advancements in machine learning algorithms, big data automation, and autonomous operational systems. This category is for innovators from across sectors who are using AI in new ways.

Renewable Energy Generation and Storage

Technologies diversifying energy sources and advancing storage solutions, adding resilience and operational flexibility through renewable energy innovations. Firms may focus on renewable energy generation, advanced storage solutions, and grid integration, influencing defense, urban development, and transportation sectors.

Quantum Science

Technologies delving into the microcosm of quantum science to unearth groundbreaking applications in computation, sensing, and encryption. Companies might be creating quantum computing promises to accelerate problem-solving or quantum sensors offering unrivaled accuracy in navigation and timing, translating into more informed decisions and robust encryption capabilities.


Some of the most revolutionary and impactful technologies come from unlikely sources. From media companies that can help fight disinformation to proptech companies that could make base housing run better to gaming companies that can improve response times–this category aims to bring new technologies into the fold. The more creative, the better.

Selection Criteria

At the Space and Defense Innovation Showcase, we are committed to curating a lineup of live demos that represent the pinnacle of innovation in these critical sectors. Our selection criteria are designed to ensure a diverse and impactful array of technologies and solutions that not only captivate the audience but also hold the promise of real-world applicability. From the maturity of the development stage to the originality and market potential, each criterion plays a vital role in shaping an event that is both engaging and meaningful. Read on to understand the specific criteria that will guide our selection process.

Development Stage

What We Evaluate

We assess whether the innovation is at a conceptual stage, in development, or market-ready. We look for a balance between early-stage ideas and mature products to offer a comprehensive event lineup.


The maturity of the product or service, from concept to market-ready.


A mix of early-stage and mature innovations provides a comprehensive view of the industry landscape.


What We Evaluate

We examine how your innovation stands out from existing solutions. Unique features, novel applications, or groundbreaking technologies will score higher in this category.


The uniqueness and novelty of the innovation.


Original ideas often capture the most attention and can set the tone for future industry trends.

Market Potential

What We Evaluate

We consider the scalability of your innovation and its potential to address specific challenges in the Space and Defense sectors. Solutions with a clear path to market adoption will be favored.


The scalability and applicability of the product or service in solving real-world problems.


High market potential increases the likelihood of adoption and impact.

Technical Feasibility

What We Evaluate

We assess the practicality of implementing your innovation, considering factors like technological readiness, resource requirements, and expertise needed.


The practicality of the innovation in terms of technology, resources, and expertise required for implementation.


An innovation that is technically feasible is more likely to transition from a demo to a real-world application, thereby increasing its potential impact.

Wow Factor

What We Evaluate

We gauge the ability of your innovation to engage and captivate the audience. Innovations that are not only functional but also exciting and memorable will excel in this category.


The ability of the innovation to captivate the audience and leave a lasting impression.


The “Wow Factor” enhances attendee engagement and makes the event memorable.


What We Evaluate

We look at the range of innovations presented and the diversity of the teams behind them. A varied lineup that represents different facets of the Space and Defense sectors is our goal.


The variety in types of innovations, as well as diversity in the teams behind them.


A diverse lineup enriches the event experience and promotes inclusivity.

Entry Date

What We Evaluate

We take into account the timeliness of your application. Early submissions may indicate a higher level of preparation and enthusiasm, which is a plus in our selection process.


The timeliness of the application submission.


Early submissions allow for better planning and can indicate strong interest and preparation.
The goal of the SDI Showcase is to bring the most interesting and innovative technologies to government buyers. As such, we regularly partner with incubators, investment firms, trade groups and other organizations who work across the technology space. Some of the most interesting advancements are coming from sectors not typically associated with space and defense innovation.

Thank you to our 2024 Showcase Title & Category Sponsors

Second Front