July 25, 2022

Aerospace and Defense Startups Find Community in Colorado Springs

catalyst campus grows aerospace and defense startups in colorado springs

Artificial intelligence, machine learning, and automation innovators are in high demand from the Department of Defense, and the majority of the Pentagon’s multi-billion defense budget typically goes to private companies. In fact, more than 1,600 firms received over $1.5 billion in seed capital to fill military contracts in 2020.

Between 2016-2022, Colorado’s aerospace and defense industry expanded by 30% statewide — or approximately 12% above the national average. This includes the more than $7 billion which is generated annually by the industry in Colorado Springs. Whether an entrepreneur has expertise in IT, aerospace, or defense, the Pikes Peak region provides a variety of resources right at home, which is especially true for firms that produce transformative technologies with military and commercial applications such as electrical aircraft, space fueling stations, and AI-enabled analytics.

Bolstered by a supportive community for the five military installations that exist in the region, Colorado Springs aerospace and defense startups can forge connections and partnerships faster than other U.S. states. One of the prominent leaders that bring small businesses, government, and academia together in Colorado Springs is Catalyst Campus. Read on to see how this thriving technology and innovation center on the east side of downtown strengthens startups and the economy in Colorado Springs.

Collaboration Drives a Startup Community Brimming with Activity

Created by Kevin O’Neil, a longtime leader in the Colorado Springs business community, Catalyst Campus is a collaborative community for startups, entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, and skilled professionals in the aerospace & defense industry. The campus includes land and a building which originally housed the Santa Fe Depot — a historic railroad station in Colorado Springs.

Since 2015, Catalyst Campus’ focus has been on creating synergy within the fields of aerospace and cybersecurity. Currently, about 50 companies operate in-person or through virtual offices at Catalyst Campus, ranging from small startups to some of the nation’s largest defense contractors. Events and accelerator programs at Catalyst are helping to bring technology developed by space-related startups into military programs more quickly.

One of Catalyst Campus’ newest tenants is ONE Dev — a contracting company created by Kevin O’Neil’s private equity firm the O’Neil Group. ONE Dev’s function will be to build a portfolio of defense companies at Catalyst Campus while expanding the innovation center’s ability to strengthen U.S. aerospace and defense systems.

U.S. Space Command opened an office at Catalyst in 2022. The campus also houses offices for the North American Aerospace Defense Command and U.S. Northern Command, as well as satellite offices for air force research laboratories, space commands, and naval warfare information centers from around the nation.

Looking Ahead

Catalyst Campus currently consists of six buildings that provide space for more than 30 in-person tenants and over 700 employees. But the innovation center isn’t stopping there. Founder O’Neil has ambitious plans to expand the 12-acre business park to include one-million-square-feet of building space that will accommodate dozens of businesses and thousands of employees. The new space promises to be an attractive proposition for talented aerospace engineers to live and work in a trendy, mixed-use neighborhood with the unique appeal of a train yard.

Efforts to open satellite locations across the nation have started. A campus was opened in the Capital Region, near the University of Maryland-College Park, in February 2021 which focuses on software development for the U.S. Navy. A third Catalyst Campus is opened in Fall 2021 in Ogden, Utah near the University of Utah and Hill Air Force Base.

Aerospace and defense startups and entrepreneurs can feel welcome in Colorado Springs. Are you a small business looking to provide innovations for national defense and commercial contractors? Contact us to learn more about Catalyst Campus or visit their website.