The U.S. Navy’s acquisition chief announced the December 9 establishment of the Gulf Coast Tech Bridge - the latest effort by the Navy to enable greater collaboration with non-traditional partners and develop partnerships that will make the sea service stronger.
“Today’s Tech Bridge additions are a symbol of the Department of Navy’s momentum to rapidly deliver capabilities into the hands of our Sailors and Marines,” said Jim "Hondo" Geurts, Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development, and Acquisition. “There is nothing more exciting than seeing the speed and transition of technology that dramatically accelerates capability, and improved development processes – this allows our Navy and Marine Corps to provide the U.S. with the ability to adopt and scale its asymmetric advantage. I look forward to seeing these Tech Bridges serving as a ‘front door’ for emerging tech to work more seamlessly with the Navy.“
The Gulf Coast Tech Bridge spans an area from Tallahassee and Panama City to Stennis Space Center and New Orleans. It is a collaboration of three Navy commands serving as the region’s super connector, tying together regional government, industry and academia to solve the Navy’s challenges in coastal regions.
The Naval Surface Warfare Center Panama City Division (NSWC PCD), the Naval Research Laboratory South and the Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command (NMOC) are leading the Tech Bridge, which spans a unique, vibrant region across four states.
“The Tech Bridge is focused on the future, growing coastal science and unmanned vehicle development, hosting industry events and expanding strategic partnerships,” said Holly Gardner, director of Strategy & Engagement at NSWC PCD and Gulf Coast Tech Bridge Director. “The Gulf Coast Tech Bridge’s focus areas are: coastal sciences and technology, assured maritime access and operational meteorology and oceanography.”
The Bridge leverages innovative prototyping and contracting mechanisms, including NSWC PCD’s expeditionary warfare Other Transactional Authority as well as the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer programs. Additionally, the group benefits from a premier testing environment on the Gulf of Mexico as well as direct fleet support.
“The Navy has a vibrant and successful science and technology ecosystem and a world-class exercise continuum,” Rear Adm. John Okon, commander, NMOC. “Embracing the Navy’s innovation culture is critical and this Tech Bridge will act as an opportunity for our Sailors to assess military utility of emerging technologies in relevant environments and within the context of priority operational scenarios.”
Each Tech Bridge is supported by the Naval Agility Office (NavalX) to seed early efforts until they are able to stand alone with local partners. The Bridges partner with start-ups, academia, corporations, small businesses, non-profits and private capital. Additionally, they serve within the growing ecosystem of Department of Defense innovation groups, providing NavalX greater collaboration capability with Defense Innovation Unit, National Security Innovation Network, U.S. Army Futures Command and others.
Since the establishment of Tech Bridges last year, the initiative has harnessed collaboration and creativity to address naval concerns and capabilities. Over the past year, NavalX has expanded the number of locations across the United States, including the Gulf Coast, and the United Kingdom to 15.
Notable successes in the past year include funding $45 million in projects to solve naval problems; awarding more than $2 million in prize challenges to non-traditional industry partners; sponsoring $37.5 million in SBIR targeting maintenance and sustainment; and helping to distribute over $800,000 to COVID-19 response efforts.