The Navy’s top acquisition official on Tuesday announced the establishment of the first NavalX tech bridge overseas, in London.
“I’m proud to announce that we are going to establish our first ever overseas tech bridge there in London. It will be a place for two way sharing of ideas and it’s not just government to government. It’s with industry, it’s with academia, quite frankly it’s with everyday citizens who may have an idea,” Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition James Geurts said during the virtual Atlantic Future Forum on Tuesday.
There are currently 12 regional tech bridge locations that aim to encourage collaboration and connections, acting like franchises helping each region develop its own model to connect a local ecosystem to connect ideas. The first six were announced last year and the last six were announced in May (Defense Daily, May 12).
The Navy is using the tech bridges to partner with academics, start-ups, corporations, small businesses, non-profits and private capital.
“London Tech Bridge makes 13 overall and our first overseas location. This location emphasizes and builds on our unique partnership with the U.K. and Royal Navy and will better enable us to accelerate solutions to support our Defense strategies,” Geurts said in a separate Navy statement.
Geurts explained the current locations “are allowing us to accelerate our ability to learn and connect with each other.” He also noted these offices are not on military bases and are not solely a requirements hull, but a place to connect ideas to the best end users.
Geurts said the new London tech bridge will be “truly unique” and a “super tech bridge” because it will both connect U.K. technology solutions to the Navy Department but also connect American technology to the U.K. by helping American companies partner with the U.K. industry.
The Navy said NavalX is working with the Office of Naval Research (ONR) Global, via its headquarters in London, to find new connections with industry and the U.K. defense partners.
Initial focus areas for this new location include artificial intelligence, unmanned and autonomy, biotechnology, apace, and lasers/directed energy.
“An advantage of our tech bridge in London is we’re teamed up with an accelerator program that the Royal Navy has established as part of the larger defense initiative over there. And so rather than me trying to reinvent connections to all of those places, again the best form of R&D for me is rip-off and deploy. The fastest way to get something is to take what’s already there. So we can immediately now tap into that, Geurts said at the event.
He emphasized something both countries have to keep working on is the “pipeline from discovery to deployment” and getting a prototype into the field for a sailor or Marine to use.
Geurts added this is an area of joint interest “because of our close partnership, if a Royal Navy sailor has used it, that gives me confidence from the outside I don’t need to go prove to myself that it might be of value and I think vice versa.”
He added the Navy is focusing on velocity of learning, meaning the right speed in the right direction “so that if we can learn faster, then we cannot have these make or break large decisions because we’re better informed when we make the decisions.”
Geurts said setting up this new London tech bridge will further enhance the speed of learning, “that velocity of insight, which is what it’s going to take if we’re going to compete & win at global scale.”
The London Tech Bridge’s initial partners include ONR Global, Imperial College London’s Institute for Security Science and Technology, the U.S. Embassy London’s Office of Defense Cooperation and Department of Commerce section, and NATO’s Maritime Unmanned Systems Innovation and Collaboration Cell (MUSIC^2) and Innovation Advisory Board.
The tech bridge plans to also work with additional partners at the U.K. Department of International Trade, U.K. Defense Ministry Defense and Security Accelerator (DASA), Royal Navy’s Office of the Chief Technology Officer, Maritime Capabilities (MARCAP), NEMESIS Program, NavyX, and more.
“The launch of the London Tech Bridge further solidifies our strong and historic bond with our U.K. partners. Working together with the Royal Navy and the entire MoD, we will improve interoperability and interchangeability by innovating together, as well as reduce overall costs by combining efforts,” Cmdr. Albert Arnold, the London Tech Bridge Director, said in a statement.
Arnold added this will be a two-way connection, moving technology to both countries “with the goal of contributing dual-use solutions to both economies.”