LEXINGTON PARK, Md.—Merriam-Webster defines innovation as "the process of innovating" such as "a new method, idea, product, etc…."
At the recent Pax River Tech Demo Day, speakers, panelists, exhibitors and attendees focused on innovation and the need for a change in government culture in order to take advantage of new products and technologies, many of which could benefit the warfighter.
Dr. Larry Schuette, Director of Research for the Office of Naval Research (ONR), said the Navy is in a good place regarding research and development because ONR is "actively engaged, and this isn't so for the other services." Schuette referenced the Innovation Challenge teams exhibiting at Tech Demo Day.
The Novel Innovative Sound Energy Harvesting Device (NOISE-HD) team, derived from Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division's (NAWCAD) Innovation Challenge, successfully harnessed sound energy from jet engines in a field environment and demonstrated that it could be stored via battery. The Sensor Embedding for Additive Manufacturing (SEAM) team was also present, demonstrating that it is possible to get reliable, accurate data for structural health monitoring of metallic "3-D printed" parts.
Both teams focused on what was needed and sought solutions.
Dr. Yogesh Joshi, Associate Professor, Robert H. Smith School of Business, University of Maryland, spoke about the importance of "need" in product development and how to commercialize technological innovations. Joshi explained three classic pitfalls in technological innovations: "failure to account for 'typical' innovation adoption rates; inappropriate 'go-to-market' strategies; and violation of 'customer centric innovation' principles."
Joshi also stressed partnerships and collaborative efforts, an idea Rear Adm. Dean Peters, Commander Naval Air Warfare Center and Assistant Commander for Research and Engineering, NAVAIR, reiterated, stressing the importance of partnerships between government and industry as well as the need for government to own data rights and capture information that the government has already paid for and allowing small businesses, rich in innovative culture, to obtain pieces of bigger government contracts.
The need for small business, rapid acquisition process and innovation culture was discussed throughout the two panel discussions: "Developing a product-focused R&D strategy" and "Innovating in the government market."
Moderator, Ben Solomon, CEO, Hyperion Technologies, and panelists David Hagar, representing NAWCAD; Dr. Joshi; Geoff Orazem, managing partner of Eastern Foundry; and Vidyu Challa, Business Development Director, FlexEl LLC discussed the key elements needed when fostering an innovative culture in business, and the panelists' diverse backgrounds highlighted the need for strategy related to research and development. Solomon mentioned Maryland's various resources available to entrepreneurs.
"StartupMaryland, TEDCO and numerous incubator spaces throughout the state assist companies just getting started," he said. The Maryland Venture Fund, a state-funded seed and early-stage equity fund, has invested in more than 50 companies to date.
Rear Adm. Steve Eastburg, USN (ret), Executive Vice President of Smartronix, moderated the second panel which included Emily Harman, Director, Navy's Office of Small Business Programs; Rear Adm. Shane Gahagan, Military Director, Integrated Warfighting Capability Enterprise Team; Rear Adm. Matt Klunder, USN (ret), Vice-President, DoD Strategy, Harris Corp; and Rick Tarr, Business Development Program Manager, NAWCAD.
Panelists emphasized leadership responsibility to shift away from the "risk averse" way of doing things, stating this approach will "drive young engineers, who view entrepreneurship as part of their DNA, out of the government."
Klunder added that "everyone is responsible" and that "innovation should be thought of as a factor in performance so people will be compelled to think outside the box."
Exhibitors present at Pax River Tech Demo Day showed how they were thinking outside the box with innovative products. "The technologies are remarkable," Bonnie Green, TPP Executive Director, said. "Wouldn't it be great to see NAVAIR utilize some of these to ultimately benefit the warfighter?"