Navy Researchers Stress Accelerating Innovation
By PETER ATKINSON, Deputy Editor
NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — In naval research, speed matters, and a panel of Naval Research Enterprise (NRE) leaders outlined the efforts being taken to accelerate innovation and move technology out of the lab and into programs of record a faster pace at the Sea-Air-Space Exposition April 10.
Speaking at the NRE booth on the show floor, officials from the Office of Naval Research (ONR), Naval Research Laboratory and the ONR-Global Program noted the transformation that has gone on within the enterprise since Rear Adm. David J. Hahn came onboard as chief of naval research and director of innovation, technology requirements, and test and evaluation in 2016.
During that time, the enterprise has developed a new research and development framework and “realigned how we operate,” according to Dr. David Walker, portfolio director at ONR who served as moderator. An overarching goal is to determine where there are opportunities to “push technologies out to the field as quickly as possible.”
Current technologies that have become the focus of this effort include laser/directed-energy systems, power solutions, integrating autonomous systems and “what will the future be for artificial intelligence,” he said.
Though the presentation was billed as a “question and answer” session, panelists outlined their specific areas within the enterprise and how this transformation was impacting the work they do.
While Capt. Scott Moran, commanding officer of ONR, noted that his office’s mission was to “work with the Navy and Marine Corps to maintain their technological edge.” He said ONR was planning on ramping up partnership opportunities with industry to deliver technology faster.
From a more international perspective, Capt. Kevin Qauderer, commanding officer of ONR-Global outlined his office’s engagement efforts aboard with goal of determining “where is the best science. … Partnerships are a core mission with us,” he said.
Patricia Gruber, technical director at ONR-Global, expanded on that by noting that “a lot of money is being spent on S&T [science and technology] and R&D [research and development], and a lot of it is being spent outside the United States. We want to start reversing that equation. We want to be out there looking for the best science and good people working on relevant solutions for the Navy.”
Part and parcel with that is looking for new ways for addressing problems and different ways for thinking about solutions, something that international partnerships often provide. That overall approach, she said, “really advances science in meaningful ways.”
As chief scientist at ONR, it’s Paul Zablocky’s job to plan out its portfolio of research proposals and determine “where to invest to fill the holes and gaps that exist today.” While speed remains of the essence, he took something of a longer term view, noting that some investments made to advance technology in such things as lasers and robotics during the 1950s and ‘60s were just starting to pay off today.