NavalX, the Department of the Navy’s “workforce super-connector,” launched its Tech Bridge initiative in September 2019. The goal was to create a collaborative environment in a commercial space where communities can easily connect. There are 15 Tech Bridges today, providing a positive, productive space where stakeholders can share ideas and best practices, with the goal of more rapidly delivering capabilities and solutions the Navy needs.
“Sometimes people hear about the Tech Bridge initiative and think, ‘Wait, I’m already doing X. Why are they creating something new to do X?’” said Whitney Tallarico, co-founder and director of the NavalX Tech Bridges. “Those are the people we want to connect to. We were created to connect, reinforce and sustain existing efforts that make the Department of the Navy more agile, capable and efficient.”
Toward that end, the Tech Bridge Innovation Pipeline “provides a framework for rapidly identifying programs that can support technology transition by mapping program schedules, duration, entrance and exit criteria, etc. across the pipeline,” according to the Tech Bridge 2020 Annual Report, released in March 2021. This process identifies bottlenecks and takes the pulse of naval innovation.
“We use our brand as an umbrella to highlight various existing capabilities, talent and tools that are making our DON better,” Tallarico said. “Using our brand makes it easier to speak a common language with industry, academia and other services. We also use it to bridge the gap between military personnel, civilians and requirement holders.”
Helping to bridge that gap are the Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) Warfare Centers, which are integral members of the Tech Bridge network. Some Warfare Center Divisions serve as Tech Bridge anchors, including Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC) Crane Division, NSWC Carderock Division, NSWC Panama City Division, NSWC Port Hueneme Division, NSWC Corona Division, Naval Undersea Warfare Center (NUWC) Newport Division and NUWC Keyport Division.
“With the technical needs on the battlefield and at sea rapidly changing, our ability to collaborate is critical in order to evade threats and defend our freedoms,” said Dr. Brett Seidle, Executive Director of the NAVSEA Warfare Centers and former Technical Director at NSWC Crane Division, which anchors the Midwest Tech Bridge, one of the earliest NavalX Tech Bridges.
While NavalX describes each of the Tech Bridges as an “innovation ecosystem,” they, in concert with partners such as the Warfare Centers, provide a larger ecosystem with easy access to subject matter experts who can help accelerate solutions to the warfighter. In fact, seven of the Tech Bridges are led by directors who came from the NAVSEA Warfare Centers.
“Warfare Centers play a critical role in developing and integrating technology for our sailors and Marines,” Tallarico said. “Each Warfare Center Division has a different technical focus that grounds a lot of their partnerships with industry and academia. We have found incredible value in connecting capabilities across the map and tech spectrum. Warfare Centers are able to partner with industry and academia through tech transfer, Small Business Innovation Research/Small Business Technology Transfer, consortia, and other authorities and vehicles to bring commercial solutions to defense problem sets.”
Collaboration with one Warfare Center Division provides the opportunity to access the expertise at other Divisions, and actually opens access to all the Divisions through the network. “When you work with one of them, you have access to all of them,” Tallarico said. “It’s amazing to see how quickly we can work together.”
Each Tech Bridge harnesses local talent and leverages partnerships to work on initiatives within specific technical areas. Current focus areas are:
• SoCal Tech Bridge, San Diego: 5G, counter-intrusion, unmanned logistics, advanced manufacturing, energy resilience and unmanned aerial systems traffic management.
• Ventura Tech Bridge, Ventura, California: land, sea and air systems; testing and evaluation of unmanned and manned systems; advanced materials, coatings and additive manufacturing; shore, afloat, undersea, expeditionary force, energy and environment.
• Northwest Tech Bridge, Keyport, Washington: big data, adaptive autonomy technology, robotics and advanced manufacturing.
• Central Coast Tech Bridge, Monterey, California: artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, all five warfighting domains, cyberspace and quantum technologies.
• Inland Empire Tech Bridge, Norco, California: data analytics and visualization, networked data environments and measurement technology.
• Midwest Tech Bridge, Crane, Indiana: modeling and simulation; power and energy battery solutions; communications, command and control, fiber optics and 5G; data analytics; unmanned aerial systems; microelectronics; AI; cyber security; and hypersonics.
• Central Florida Tech Bridge, Orlando: modeling, simulation, training and human performance.
• Palmetto Tech Bridge, Charleston, South Carolina: cyber security, autonomous systems, advanced communications/5G, and advanced manufacturing.
• Mid-Atlantic Tech Bridge, Norfolk, Virginia: 5G, advanced manufacturing, unmanned systems, digital engineering and digital platforms.
• Capital Tech Bridge, Washington, D.C., area: digital engineering, design capabilities and tools, advanced manufacturing and unmanned systems.
• Northeast Tech Bridge, Newport, Rhode Island: maritime materials, advanced manufacturing and undersea technologies.
• Southern Maryland Tech Bridge, Patuxent River: unmanned aviation, autonomous systems, and modeling and simulation.
• London Tech Bridge, United Kingdom: AI, autonomy and unmanned, biotechnology, space, and laser and directed energy.
• Hawaii Tech Bridge, Honolulu: command and control; computers and networking; communication; intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; cyber defense; resilience; and space systems.
• Gulf Coast Tech Bridge, Panama City, Florida: coastal sciences and technology, assured maritime access, and operational meteorology and oceanography.
RELATED: Watch ‘Three Questions with … Whitney Tallarico’ on NAVSEA Warfare Centers’ YouTube: https://youtu.be/N_G2k7gD3lU
Read the NavalX Tech Bridges 2020 Annual Report: