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Engaging Start Ups and College Kids to solve DoD Problems

The National Security Innovation Network (NSIN) is one of the many innovation programs that have sprung up in the past few years to create opportunities for academia and technology start-ups to help solve DoD problems.  Any DoD customer can approach NSIN with a problem set and ask them to help create a network of non-traditional solution providers to look at the issues. Today, there are about 50 DoD civilians and contractors running NSIN full time, with offices in 8 universities and teaming with over 40.

NSIN has three portfolios of programs with some pretty interesting ways to access talent and technologies.

  1. National Service: If DoD experiences an urgent need for a specific type of new technology development, NSIN can reach out and grab some (willing!) college kids and throw them into the tactical unit to help solve the problems.
  2. Collaboration: They have created the Defense Innovation Network, a web-based defense entrepreneur community that pulls people, problems, technologies and resources into a single space. Additionally, they put on hack-a-thons and can tailor them to specific cyber concerns.  They have created a Hacking For Defense (H4D) course for Universities to focus students on DoD problems.
  3. Acceleration: NSIN can also help push new technologies from the DoD labs out to market tech commercialization and assist early-stage venture teams to find public and private capital and follow on DoD funding.

NSIN relies on Small Business Innovation Research dollars to fund this work.  You can find these opportunities sprinkled throughout the Services SBIR programs.  The Marines, always looking for faster and better ways to do things, have particularly been successful using NSIN to access college talent.

I watched an excellent movie last night in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month. Spare Parts (2015) is a fantastic feel-good flick about a team of undocumented teenagers from Arizona who went on to win a DoD Underwater Robotics competition at the University of California, Santa Barbara.   Programs like NSIN are how these life-changing (and DoD enhancing) programs are created.

Chris Ward

Chris Ward

Chris Ward (Commander, U.S. Navy (Retired)) has over 30 years of experience helping the Department of Defense (DoD) solve difficult technology requirements. She has a proven track record of building, maintaining, securing and certifying technology solutions for use within DoD. She works with Industry to identify key opportunities and provides strategic guidance and support. She is a strategic analyst and cybersecurity professional who has deep expertise in improving enterprise cybersecurity.