For Immediate Release: July 23, 2019
By Warren Duffie Jr., Office of Naval Research
ARLINGTON, Va.—Speaking at a recent event about accelerating technology delivery to warfighters, Bob Smith shared a simple message: Engage more with nontraditional partners like Silicon Valley technology and venture-capital firms.
“Most 22-year-old software engineers want to be the next Bill Gates,” said Smith, director of the U.S. Navy’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs. “Many of them don’t think about working with the Department of Defense. How can we get those companies to work with us and become partners in the acquisition process?
“Maybe that means we open the aperture a bit,” he continued. “That might mean funding more technologies through their first stages of development to get them to the next phase faster. Or it might mean taking a mature technology and funding it for six months to get it where it needs to be. It’s all about spurring innovation.”
Smith gave his remarks at the Naval Agility Summit, held last week in Alexandria, Virginia. He spoke about the need to transform the use of funding from the Navy’s SBIR and STTR programs, both located at the Office of Naval Research (ONR). SBIR provides the Navy with groundbreaking technology created by small firms—while STTR transitions products developed by both small businesses and research institutions to the Navy and Marine Corps.
The Naval Agility Summit was organized by ONR and the Navy’s Naval Expeditions (NavalX) Agility Office—which was created by the Hon. James Geurts, Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition.
NavalX is intended to give Sailors, Marines and DoN civilians the tools to deliver ideas into action. This will enable every naval organization, including ONR, to better connect Sailors and Marines who have innovative ideas with experts who can experiment with those ideas, invest in them or help turn them into something tangible for the Navy and Marine Corps.
The Naval Agility Summit highlighted NavalX success stories through presentations, panel discussions, workshops and TED-style talks.
Another ONR leader participating in the summit was Dr. Richard Carlin, who is the command’s Naval Accelerator. His job entails fostering smoother collaboration between naval warfare centers, academia and industry—to streamline technology development and delivery to Sailors and Marines.
Carlin talked at length about the Naval Innovation Process Adoption (NIPA) program, one of the efforts he oversees as Naval Accelerator. NIPA seeks to harness the expertise of academics, engineers, scientists and entrepreneurs via Hacking for Defense (H4D)—a Stanford University-created model that adapts best practices from Silicon Valley companies to the Department of Defense. An important component of NIPA involves challenges that provide H4D training and funding for rapid-prototype development at naval commands.
“NIPA is a valuable tool to create collaboration while solving problems and delivering solutions,” said Carlin. “We’re trying to create processes that people can practice, adopt or adapt.”
Smith and Carlin also discussed other ways in which ONR is trying to improve the acquisition process, including:
—The Accelerated Delivery and Acquisition of Prototype Technologies (ADAPT) pilot program engages non-traditional, small-business technology providers and educates them on naval priorities. The goal is to cultivate partners with existing technology prototypes that have been proven to work and can be adapted to naval needs—in under two years.
—ONR is working to create Tech Bridges in multiple locations throughout the United States. These would serve as regional innovation hubs where warfare centers, colleges and universities, research institutions and industry team up for technology research, evaluation and commercialization, as well as education and workforce development.
For more information about NavalX, visit https://www.secnav.navy.mil/agility.
Warren Duffie Jr. is a contractor 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.