NEWPORT, R.I. — The first five NavalX Tech Bridges stood up earlier this month by Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition James “Hondo” Geurts are not wasting any time in creating these outposts of collaboration and innovation.
This is a lot faster than we’re used to going, but that is how Mr. Geurts likes to do business,” Director of Tech Bridges Cmdr. Sam Gray said. “That is called ‘Hondo speed’ — it’s like plaid for anyone who has seen ‘Spaceballs.’
“I just ask everybody to understand, everybody is trying to get to the same place. It might be a new mechanism, but everyone has the same goals of being more agile and getting tools in the hands of our Sailors faster.”
Gray was one of about two dozen in attendance at the Naval Undersea Warfare Center (NUWC) Division Newport — either in person or via video conference — on Sept. 13 for the first national Tech Bridge coordination meeting. The purpose of the event was to coordinate activities, discuss the status of programs and contracting mechanisms, and highlight challenges so that each Tech Bridge can progress on a united front.
Gray described Tech Bridges as not specific cities or warfare centers, but rather regional hubs of innovation. In this first iteration but not necessarily for future bridges, each area has a warfare center anchoring the region to best ensure execution. To learn more about Tech Bridges, click here.
“Tech Bridge is another important tool we can use to stimulate our ecosystem and engage partners in the region to conduct R&D (research and development) in pursuit of accelerated deployment to our warfighter,” NUWC Chief Technology Officer Dr. Vic Ricci said. “Tech Bridge and other NavalX initiatives are critical to fostering conditions necessary to change decades of acquisition inertia that led to atrophy of innovation muscle memory.
“It will seek to capitalize on both planned research projects as well as serendipitous sparks that are often the most important discoveries leading to game-changing capability.”
Among the topics addressed was the strategic focus for Tech Bridges for the next two to three years, as well as how to best execute it. This will be to establish the Tech Bridge as a national network of connected regional platforms to quickly experiment, assess and engage with partners in government, industry and academia to solve problems.
NUWC Division Newport’s Prize Challenge, co-sponsored by the Office of Naval Research (ONR) in August, was discussed as a possible example that fulfills this strategic focus.
“NAVSEA (Naval Sea Systems Command), along with ONR (Office of Naval Research), recently issued the first of three prize challenges on challenge.gov,” Ricci said. “These prize challenges offer NAVSEA the unique opportunity to solicit ideas from industries and academia with winners receiving a ‘prize’ and, in this case, the possibility to work with the government under an OTA (Other Transactional Authority) to accelerate deployment technology solutions.”
Submissions for the “Full Ocean Depth Challenge” were due to Division Newport by Sept. 12. Participants were asked to design and construct a body or payload section that will survive full ocean depth pressures.
Along with Ricci, NUWC’s Technology Partnership Officer Mary Sylvia, Technical Partners; Valerie Larkin, Technology Transfer (T2) manager, Jim Kasischke, supervisory patent counsel, Public Affairs Officer Jeff Prater, Dr. Elizabeth Magliula and Kelley Rego represented Division Newport at the meeting.
“T2 offices are an important enabler of the regional Tech Bridges using T2 partnering mechanisms,” Sylvia said. “The Division Newport Technology Partnership Office (TPO) is working with a potential Partnership Intermediary Agreement (PIA) partner to implement the 401 Tech Bridge.”
Also on hand were representatives from ONR, NUWC Division Keyport, Department of the Navy (DON) Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) and Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) programs, Naval Information Warfare Center (NIWC, previously SPAWAR) Pacific and Atlantic, and Naval Air Warfare Center Training Systems Division (NAWCTSD) Orlando.
In addition to examining the strategic focus of Tech Bridges, the afternoon also included an update by Gray from a national perspective. Each group then conducted strength, weakness, opportunities and threats (SWOT) analyses to help better identify overlapping areas among the bridges.
“We already have several PIAs and CRADAs (Cooperative Research and Development Agreements) in each of these areas and other technical transfer agreements,” said Kendra Meggett-Carr, director of the DON Technology Transfer Program who phoned in for the meeting. “As we go forward, it’s key that there are the IP attorneys that are part of this. There also have been more talks here at ONR on what it looks like to support this from a program office standpoint.”
NUWC Newport is a shore command of the U.S. Navy within the Naval Sea Systems Command, which engineers, builds and supports America’s fleet of ships and combat systems. NUWC Newport provides research, development, test and evaluation, engineering and fleet support for submarines, autonomous underwater systems, undersea offensive and defensive weapons systems, and countermeasures associated with undersea warfare.
Currently celebrating its 150th anniversary, NUWC Newport is the oldest warfare center in the country, tracing its heritage to the Naval Torpedo Station established on Goat Island in Newport Harbor in 1869. Commanded by Captain Michael Coughlin, NUWC Newport maintains major detachments in West Palm Beach, Fla., and Andros Island in the Bahamas, as well as test facilities at Seneca Lake and Fisher's Island, N.Y., Leesburg, Fla., and Dodge Pond, Conn.