The Griffiss Institute is looking for a few good teams – ten to be exact – to take part in a 12-week defense innovation program that begins in May. The competition for the ten slots is open to startups developing defense applications for artificial intelligence/machine learning, cyber, quantum, and UAS solutions with potential to improve American national security and economic competitiveness.

The HUSTLE Defense Accelerator is an elite and immersive training academy for seed stage tech startups offered exclusively in person at the state-of-the-art Innovare Advancement Center, an open innovation hub driven by the Air Force Research Laboratory Information Directorate (“Rome Lab”) to accelerate academic, industry and government talent and technologies in areas critical to national security. Teams selected should be prepared to participate in a rigorous training program with expert trainers, coaches, and mentors from May 23 through August 12, in the heart of New York State’s defense ecosystem in Rome, NY.


The ten startups selected will enjoy a unique, two-track opportunity during the HUSTLE program. Short for “Helping Upstate Science + Technology Leaders + Entrepreneurs”, HUSTLE startups will learn how to grow their businesses and how to successfully collaborate with the Department of Defense (DoD) and other government agencies to drive solutions to market.
The business track of the HUSTLE program will teach, among other topics: motivation, competition, customer discovery, business model development, marketing and communications, intellectual property, and market entry. The government track will include, among other topics: requirements for DoD and in particular Air Force and Space Force programs, how to write a proposal for the DoD, how to handle confidential unclassified information, and basic DoD contracting rules and requirements. Qualifying HUSTLE teams will have the opportunity to pitch for up to $300,000 in investments to scale their companies in the Mohawk Valley.

This HUSTLE accelerator program was made possible by a $2 million Upstate Revitalization Initiative grant from Empire State Development which was recommended by the Mohawk Valley Regional Economic Development Council (MVREDC).

Interested teams should complete the online application at, which is due by 2:14 PM on February 14. At that point, no more than 20 teams will be selected to give a five-minute presentation and answer questions from an expert panel of judges. The ten teams selected will then take part in the program this summer. HUSTLE is sponsored by over 20 organizations and individuals committed to advancing the program’s mission, with core support from Rome Lab and the New York State Division of Science and Technology (“NYSTAR”).

Heather Hage, CEO and President of Griffiss Institute: “The HUSTLE Defense Accelerator was designed in alignment with national best practices to do precisely what it says – Help Upstate Science and Technology Leaders and Entrepreneurs to be successful in startups driving new applications of AI/ML, cyber, quantum and UAS technologies that enable our defense ecosystem to fight, and win, against our adversaries. Rome, NY is the heart of the New York State defense ecosystem, and the GI is committed to deliver an unparalleled experience at Innovare Advancement Center this summer, where HUSTLE teams will join the ranks of a global community of diverse scientists, engineers and entrepreneurs working side-by-side, unified in purpose to protect our country and grow the national economy.”

Fred Garcia II, Colonel USAF, Director Information Directorate, Air Force Research Laboratory: “Cybersecurity is a general area of focus for the Air Force Research Laboratory in Rome, New York. With projects such as the HUSTLE Defense Accelerator nearby, there are many opportunities for growth, innovation, and improvement in this field in central New York. For the Airmen and Guardians, we work with, safety is job one. For the USAF and USSF, cybersecurity is not just a word to describe this field; it is a calling to provide total cyber-safety of the digital Airman or Guardian.”

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, United States Senator for New York State: “Cybersecurity and emerging technology play increasingly important part in our national defense and local economies. The Innovare Advancement Center and the Griffiss Institute are great examples of how public-private partnerships can help drive the cybersecurity and quantum computing industry here in Rome. Programs like the HUSTLE Defense Accelerator will continue to define the next era of security and technology, keep America competitive on the global playing field, and draw more of the world’s brightest minds to work here in Central New York.”

Anthony J. Picente Jr., Oneida County Executive: “Oneida County has solidified itself as the epicenter for next-level technological research and development. Our investment at Griffiss International Airport has led to major innovation and advancement in the field of UAS and that is continuing at the Innovare Advancement Center with cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, and quantum computing. The HUSTLE Defense Accelerator is the latest chapter in how, along with partners like the Griffiss Institute, we are rewriting the book on building business around the defense and security of this nation.”

Jacqueline M. Izzo, Mayor, City of Rome: “One of the most important functions of the Innovare Advancement Center (IAC) is to promote technology startups utilizing the vast resources of Rome Lab and its partners to identify the entrepreneurs to lead us into the next decade. The HUSTLE Defense Accelerator will be a new, unique approach to assisting entrepreneurs with a business track and a government track, something not done in prior competitions, competing for the ultimate investment of up to $300,000 to develop new business products right here in the City of Rome and Mohawk Valley region. The Griffiss Institute is the perfect partner for HUSTLE as it offers a specialized mix of talent on a worldwide scale to advance and nurture new business ventures and encourage thinking “out of the box” to continue growing our technology ecosystem.”

Mary Carol “MC” Chruscicki, Executive Director of the Central New York Defense Alliance: “The Hustle Defense Accelerator is a unique and exciting opportunity for new startups. Hustle will immerse entrepreneurs in a program that untangles the challenges of starting a business while developing the tools that will enable working with the Department of Defense on technologies that are central to our national security and economy.”

ESD Acting Commissioner and President & CEO-Designate Hope Knight: “The Griffiss Institute’s HUSTLE Defense Accelerator will draw innovative tech startup talent to help further build the Mohawk Valley’s defense industry ecosystem. ESD is proud to support the development of in demand businesses that will create solutions for real world issues and increase New York State’s economic competitiveness as a growing hub for AI/ML, cyber, quantum and UAS.”

Dr. Marion Terenzio, co-chair of the Mohawk Valley Regional Economic Development Council and president of SUNY Cobleskill: “This Accelerator further underscores the Mohawk Valley as a world leader at the bleeding edge of technological advancement, where new ideas are nurtured through shared resources and expertise. Investment in these new ideas and newfound potential sets us squarely on the track for a more secure and economically vibrant future. Through the efforts of the Griffiss Institute and the Accelerator participants, the groundwork for this future finds new roots in the Mohawk Valley.”

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