The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) officially opened Moonshot Labs, the agency’s first unclassified innovation space, on July 23 at the T-REX innovation and entrepreneur center in downtown St. Louis. The labs encompass about 12,000 square feet of shared workspace at T-REX and aim to foster collaboration among the government, industry and academic geospatial community members in the St. Louis region.
Unlike previous NGA buildings and workspaces that have unclassified areas, the labs were designed and developed to be a completely open from the outset, said NGA Director Navy Vice Adm. Robert Sharp. The unclassified environment allows the agency’s workforce to collaborate face-to-face with traditional and nontraditional partners throughout the geospatial community.
There is a great deal of potential now around geospatial innovation, Sharp said. The U.S. and NGA have competitors and adversaries who are also working toward supremacy in geospatial technology and innovation.
“But they don’t have our friends, and those friends share a wealth of diverse perspectives, expertise and ideas with all of us,” he said. “And that’s our secret sauce. That’s why we’ll prevail.”
Last year, Sharp challenged the agency’s workforce and the geospatial community with a call to action known as the NGA Moonshot, a plan that maps out a path to maintaining NGA’s position as the leader in geospatial intelligence. Like the call to action for urgency, innovation and teamwork required in the nation’s race to the moon in the late 1960s, Sharp’s call to action was to deliver GEOINT with the speed, accuracy and precision required to protect the nation and stay ahead of adversaries.
“Our moonshot is an all-of-enterprise effort to speed up the delivery of the capabilities necessary to deliver that trusted geospatial intelligence our military, policymakers and first-responders require,” Sharp said. “All with the speed, accuracy and precision required to project power and defend the United States and our allies.”
Growing from the strategy, the Moonshot Labs is crucial to meeting that call to action, but in a way that involves more players than just NGA, he said. Moonshot Labs’ location at the T-REX, part of the St. Louis Downtown Innovation District, was chosen for its proximity to other members of a growing geospatial ecosystem of government, industry and academic ecosystem collaborators.
“St. Louis’ government, industry and academic members have embraced a vision of collaboration to strengthen even further the St. Louis region as a center of geospatial excellence,” Sharp said. “It’s the perfect environment to be launching Moonshot Labs.”
NGA’s new campus in St. Louis will open in 2025 with an innovation center offering unclassified, collaborative workspace. But Sharp said that NGA can’t wait for this kind of environment to begin working more closely with industry, academia and others in the growing St. Louis geospatial community.
“Today is a way for accelerating our pledge to you all — four years before the opening of the next NGA campus here — that we truly want to be part of the St. Louis community,” he said.
Outside of helping actualize NGA’s Moonshot, Sharp added, the labs represent a promise from the agency to continue strengthening the geospatial ecosystem, in addition to building a better technology ecosystem.