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CHIPS Articles: Office of Naval Research Wants to Innovate at Startup Speed

Office of Naval Research Wants to Innovate at Startup Speed
By David Smalley, Office of Naval Research - March 29, 2018
ARLINGTON, Va. — Responding to a call from top military leaders to accelerate delivery of technology to the warfighter, officials from the Office of Naval Research (ONR) last week launched a program designed to spur innovation in the Navy and Marine Corps.

The kickoff session — held at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California — officially began the Naval Innovation Process Adoption, or NIPA. Experts from across the Navy and Marine Corps met to discuss new ways to collaborate, overcome obstacles and swiftly deliver new capabilities to America’s Sailors and Marines.

Dr. Richard Carlin, who heads ONR’s Sea Warfare and Weapons Department, said it is essential to energize how naval innovation takes place, and to empower novel ideas.

“The National Defense Strategy states it clearly,” he said. “We are in a new era of challenges, with adversaries making dramatic gains.

“As technology advances faster than ever before, and both state and non-state actors having access to it, the naval research community needs to accelerate accordingly.”

Participants at last week’s kickoff said NIPA will help meet the challenge. The program is designed to solve problems facing naval organizations, from contracts to warfare centers. It includes timelines to get from the “light bulb-idea” moment when a problem is actually understood, to research and delivery of prototypes — by giving the Navy and Marine Corps a common language and approach for solving those problems.

Currently, technology development and acquisition can take years — and in some cases, once-new technology is outdated by the time it reaches the warfighter.

NIPA is based on a method called H4X, which combines of some of the best entrepreneurial methodologies found in Silicon Valley — designed by Steve Blank, an adjunct professor at Stanford University; retired Army Col. Pete Newell, former head of the Army’s Rapid Equipping Force; and the team at BMNT, a company that builds tools to solve some of the world’s toughest problems.

H4X is a problem-solving method used by various organizations across the Department of Defense (DoD) and other government agencies. Hacking for Defense, or H4D for short, is a variant offered by a growing number of universities to create a pipeline of young technologists and entrepreneurs who are willing to take on some of our nation’s toughest challenges.

“Using best-of-breed tools and methodologies, H4X was built as an evidence-based, data-driven, disciplined process for solving the world’s toughest challenges at speed and scale,” said Newell. “We are exceptionally proud of the results achieved by others who have applied it in the DoD and intelligence agencies, and look forward to seeing it drive innovation for our naval forces.”

Carlin and other officials say the Navy can benefit from a new innovation culture and mindset as well as different tools to drive innovation. While he is also using H4X for multiple programs in his own department, he hopes this is just the beginning.

“We are incredibly fortunate to have this partnership between the Navy and world-renowned thought leaders like Steve Blank and Pete Newell,” he said. “NIPA will start in one department of one Navy command — but its principles could become a catalyst across the fleet and force.”

David Smalley works for ONR Corporate Strategic Communications.

About the Office of Naval Research

The Department of the Navy’s Office of Naval Research provides the science and technology necessary to maintain the Navy and Marine Corps’ technological advantage. Through its affiliates, ONR is a leader in science and technology with engagement in 50 states, 55 countries, 634 institutions of higher learning and nonprofit institutions, and more than 960 industry partners. ONR, through its commands, including headquarters, ONR Global and the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C., employs more than 3,800 people, comprising uniformed, civilian and contract personnel.

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