MITRE Social Innovation Mentorship Program for Underrepresented Founders

About the MITRE Social Innovation Mentorship Program

MassChallenge, the global network for innovators, and MITRE, an operator of federally funded R&D centers, partner together to launch a new mentorship program designed to lower barriers for under-represented founders in the entrepreneurial ecosystem. Applicants must have at least one founder from historically-underrepresented identities including Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC), non-binary, and/or women.

Startups with solutions in Advanced Manufacturing, Artificial Intelligence (AI),  BlueTech, Cybersecurity, or Digital Health are encouraged to apply. Ten companies will ultimately participate in the program (two per challenge area). Read on below for specifics on these challenge areas, and information about MITRE experts serving as mentors.

The two-month program will run from January through March. Mentors will lend their technical or domain expertise to startups, helping them understand government markets, connect with resources, and discover potential end users and non-dilutive funding.

Two-month working period (January - March 2023) includes:

  • Orientation boot camp
  • Regular, one-on-one meetings with MITRE mentors from the five technical areas
  • Curriculum led by MassChallenge and MITRE experts. Potential topics include:
    • Pathways to government contracting and non-dilutive funding
    • Overview of MITRE and Bridging Innovation - how startups work with MITRE
    • Standards and best practices - all technical areas
    • Perspectives on engaging with the government from MC alumni
  • Connections to Federal Government end users
  • Access to MITRE lab resources
  • Final showcase with private and public sector stakeholders

Challenge Areas

Advanced Manufacturing
  • Challenge statement: We seek innovative ideas in the area of Advanced Manufacturing technologies that aim to improve measurable manufacturing outcomes. Some areas of interest include, but are not limited to, improving hardware design and performance, removing physical and economic constraints posed by traditional manufacturing methods and lowering barriers to use of advanced manufacturing by addressing ecosystem challenges including cybersecurity, intellectual property protection, part certification, software interoperability, and development of standards.
  • Lead Mentor: Dr. Carlo Canetta - Dr. Canetta leads the Mechanical and Reliability Systems & Prototype Development Department at MITRE. His background in thermal analysis, fluid dynamics, sensors, and environmental requirements has allowed him to successfully identify and communicate the challenges and research needs for advancing manufacturing technologies to government sponsors.

Artificial Intelligence
  • Challenge statement: We seek innovative ideas in the area of Assuring Artificial Intelligence that result in AI systems that are safe, secure, robust, reliable, equitable, and explainable. AI Assurance involves technical assessment of the performance of AI systems across all of these dimensions and is a critical step in deploying trustworthy and ethical AI systems. Areas of interest include, but are not limited to, ensuring data privacy, reducing and mitigating the effects of bias, explainable applications of AI and machine learning, environmentally responsible AI, value sensitive design of AI systems, and provably reliable and resilient AI systems.
  • Lead Mentor: Dr. Abigail Gertner - Dr. Gertner is Solutions Integrator for AI-Enhanced Decision Making in the AI and Autonomy Innovation Center at MITRE. Her work brings together lifelong interests in artificial intelligence and human cognition to develop tools to help people learn, interpret and make decisions in complex, data-rich environments.

  • Challenge statement: We seek innovative and practical ideas for maritime technologies that address needs in coastal resilience, including aquaculture, climate research, energy harvesting, and commerce. Technologies of particular interest include wireless undersea communication and compact sensing of ocean and coastal physics phenomena. Proposals should address maritime challenges such as supply chain disruptions, biofouling, and energy storage and transport.
  • Lead Mentor: Dianne Egnor - Dianne is the chief engineer for MITRE’s Underwater and Acoustic Systems department. Her background has focused on underwater acoustics and communications.

  • Challenge statement: We’re seeking innovative ideas for cybersecurity solutions and technologies that will measurably improve cyber architecture and resiliency, extend cybersecurity to new domains (e.g., critical infrastructure), and advance defensive and offensive cyber operations and cyber effects. Areas of interest include but are not limited to, adversary emulation, adversary engagement/deception, AI-based security, cloud security, cyber analytics, cyber safety (e.g. transportation), defensive cyber operations, health cyber, IoT and cyber physical systems, malware analysis, mobile security, and Web 3.0.
  • Lead Mentor: Leslie Anderson. Leslie is Chief Strategist for cyber operations integration at MITRE. She brings 25 years of experience leading high-visibility, strategic initiatives in both public and private sectors. She played a lead role launching MITRE’s efforts to bridge commercial innovation to the government, and currently overseas MITRE’s cyber platform – a collection of cyber tools and capabilities including CALDERA™, Engage™, and CREF Navigator™. She regularly contributes to cyber strategy and analysis efforts for several U.S. government agencies

Digital Health
  • Challenge statement: We seek innovative ideas in the area of Digital Health technologies that aim to improve the health and well-being of the nation, powered by a digital health ecosystem. Some areas of interest include, but are not limited to, forming a connected health ecosystem defined by timely, secure data exchange, empowering individuals to take charge of their health and well-being, establishing artificial intelligence as a trusted cornerstone of digital health, building a workforce skilled in application of digital health, and bridging the digital divide to achieve health equity.
  • Lead Mentor: Salim Semy. Salim is a Principal Engineer in the Open Health Solutions department within MITRE’s Health Innovation Center. His background in software engineering and biomedical sciences has allowed him to successfully lead cross-functional teams to engineer innovative digital health solutions within MITRE’s Innovation Program and in support of multiple Federal sponsors.

Applications are now closed! Thank you for your interest.

Who Can Apply?
Startup applicants must have at least one founder from historically-underrepresented identities including Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC), non-binary, and/or women. Applicants need not be located in the U.S.

How To Apply

If you already have a MassChallenge Startup profile, click here and select your company, then select the 2023 MITRE Mentorship Program.

For those who haven't created a profile yet, click here to create your startup profile in order to apply.

On the application, startups can select more than one challenge area (up to two).

Key Dates

  • November 10, 2pm ET - Optional info session for interested startup applicants - register here!
  • November 18 - Application Deadline
  • December 16 - Accepted startups notified
  • January 9 - Program working period commences
  • March 3 - Program working period ends

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About MassChallenge

MassChallenge is the global network for innovators. Headquartered in the United States with seven locations worldwide, MassChallenge equips bold entrepreneurs to disrupt the status quo and to create meaningful change. Learn more at


MITRE’s mission-driven teams are dedicated to solving problems for a safer world. Through our public-private partnerships and federally funded R&D centers, we work across government and in partnership with industry to tackle challenges to the safety, stability, and well-being of our nation.

Program Lead – Titilayo Ogunyale

  • Titilayo Ogunyale leads MITRE’s Corporate Social Innovation Program. She is responsible for developing and overseeing the execution of initiatives and programs that strengthen and expand MITRE’s social impact in underserved communities through innovative business models and practices.

Technical Lead -  Jaya Tripathi

  • Jaya Tripathi is a Principal Scientist at MITRE. Combining domain expertise, a strong technical background and innate creativity, she has applied her advanced analytics expertise in architecting solutions to tackle some of our nation’s critical problems, taking projects from concept design-to-implementation-to- engaging stakeholders in partnerships and technology transfer of solutions. She is the recipient of The Most Influential Women in Health IT award from HIMSS and BEYA award for ‘Outstanding Technical Contributions to Industry