Each year, the U.S. Air Force aims toward meeting a goal of issuing about a fifth of its contracts to small businesses, but it’s finding that many of the firms it works with just aren’t that small.

That leaves the Air Force missing out on a lot of cool ideas it could use, said service secretary Heather Wilson.

That’s why the service is trying something new: a national pitch day for small business. It’s part of a larger initiative called blueSHIFT, aimed at reaching out to smaller companies. The shark tank-like format will let the Air Force quickly assess ideas from small business and find the innovations that fit the service’s needs the most.

“It will be March 6 and 7 and it will be the first pitch day with the United States Air Force,” Wilson said last week during the Defense One Summit in Washington. “We will be announcing, on LinkedIn and websites everywhere, some of our toughest problems. They will be in software, intelligence, special operations, and then we will have an open category for good ideas.”

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