ForwardWERX develops tools and people to meet the Air Force’s modernization priorities by offering free programs, paid professional development, and access to funding in collaboration with state, university and business partners. Together, we intend to solve problems across the Wisconsin Air National Guard creating opportunities in your local and military communities.


THINK BIG, start small, and Scale Fast!


The following programs are designed to help teams pursue BIG projects by identifying small, but critical milestones to show traction with leaders and to identify innovation funding. Programs are available for guard and civilian solo ventures or partnered tracks. These programs are funded by the state of Wisconsin and free for Wisconsin participants. Eligible teams must have an affiliation to a UW System
campus, ForwardWERX and CTC may help teams meet this requirement.

Click either icon to be directed to the CTC website to learn more about each program or to apply.

Geared towards established businesses partnering with Air Force POCs on innovations to address an Air Force need.
Can earn up to $1,500 to understand and prepare materials for a funding proposal.
Required team participation in four, 1.5 hour virtual workshops. Curious guard participants (10 total) earn $250 stipend to attend and learn. See schedule below.
Program in partnership with the University and Air Force POCs. Interested guard member should complete the web form for more information.
Geared towards Wisconsin innovators (including military) looking to start or grow a scalable business across any sector from food to high-tech.
Can earn $15,000 – $25,000 working with customers and partners towards a scalable business model and to develop proposals for future funding.
Requires team participation across 8 virtual events including customer discovery interviews (September – December cohorts).
Program in partnership with the WEDC & University partners. Interested applicants receive guided support to prepare and submit competitive proposals.

Meetings will occur virtually every Thursday from September 8 to December 15.

Business Innovation Track

Partnered Innovation Track


  • Up to $15,000
  • Focus of Lean Startup learning:
  • Reduce risk in product ideas by determining what features will solve a real customer need.
  • Discovery toward a sales launch with revenue- generating pilot customers.
  • Discovery towards early-stage equity and debt financing.
  • Up to $25,000
  • Focus of Lean Startup learning:
  • Reduce risk in product ideas by determining what features will solve a real customer need.
  • Vet synergistic partnership goals aimed at acquiring customers. An ideal outcome is a move towards a pilot or fully executed partner agreement.
  • Develop a competitive plan to achieve customer acquisition and follow-on funding goals, including engagement for competitive grant/contract, debt and/or equity financing.

Who Should

  • Startup, early stage or establishe businesses with at least two dedicated full time or part time employees and no more than 50 employees.
  • Likely to pursue follow-on funding through revenue, angels or venture capital.
  • Startup, early stage or established businesses with at least two dedicated full time or part time employees and no more than 50 employees.
  • Should be actively engaged with, or plan to be engaged with an external partner aimed at customer acquisition for scalable growth. Note that hired consultants are not considered partners for this program.
  • Likely to have deep technologies or innovations with more technological risk than Small Business Innovation Track.
  • Likely to pursue follow-on funding through partner strategy, grants, contracts, or equity investments.

Eligible Use of Funds
Applicants are expected to justify their funding request. Proposals may not exceed the maximum Stage
1 allotment, but requests may be made for less than the full amount. Funds are used to advance
commercialization activities associated with Ideadvance Stage 1 goals.

Eligible expenses can include (not limited to):
Business filing fees
Business Services
Development /Project Management Tools
Legal/Accounting expenses
Market research
Training and education
Subscriptions to data services
Office/lab Rent
Web/Hosting services
Software Developer Service Fee
Analytic Tools
Travel expenses
Prototype or minimum viable product

Ineligible expenses include:
Basic research support
Business relocation costs
Fringe benefits

To apply for the Ideadvance program, please click on the Ideadvance icon above to be directed to the Wisconsin Center for Commercial Technology Center’s website. The CTC, a partner of Wisconsin Inspire and host of the Ideadvance program, will help you negotiate the process. A few eligibility criteria to consider are as follows:

  • Do you have a teammate that brings the UW System required eligibility?  This means they are faculty, staff, student or alumni.
  • Do you have an innovative project? Usually this means there is some risk in the technology or business model.
  • Do you have a scalable solution?
  • Can you commit to the program? Syllabus_Ideadvance_Stage 1_Abridged.pdf

Interested to Learn More?

To contact ForwardWERX, please email us at