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DIU, Naval Postgraduate School Partnership Bridges Tech Talent Gap

The two organizations want to leverage advances in the commercial sector and academia to exchange ideas and field defense solutions.

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Students at the Navy Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, study in 2023.
Students at the Navy Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, study in 2023. Photo Credit: Navy Postgraduate School

A new partnership between the Defense Innovation Unit and the Naval Postgraduate School wants to accelerate adoption of commercial technologies for defense applications and develop the future leaders to manage these solutions.

The parties signed a memorandum of understanding in April at the Sea-Air-Space Conference in National Harbor, Maryland. The agreement outlines a path for DOD to adopt these solutions, fostering a mutually beneficial relationship between the Pentagon and technology talent within the private sector and academia.

The school’s inaugural Director of Research Innovation Kaitie Penry spoke to GovCIO Media & Research about the agreement and how the two organizations are moving the defense workforce forward in these priorities.

Naval Postgraduate School and DIU already have cross-pollination. How does the new agreement enhance talent and technology leadership?

Penry: The memo formalizes the relationship that has existed between NPS and DIU for years, and it significantly enhances future collaborative efforts by structuring and streamlining the exchange of personnel, ideas and projects. This facilitates a seamless integration of talents and technologies, allowing NPS faculty and students to gain hands-on experience with cutting-edge defense technologies at DIU, while DIU personnel benefit from NPS’s advanced research resources.

The memo also supports joint efforts on projects that address current and future defense challenges, fostering a dynamic environment where ideas can be rapidly prototyped, tested and implemented. Regular exchanges of personnel and ideas ensure that best practices and lessons learned are shared, accelerating the development of innovative solutions.

Ultimately, the memo strengthens the strategic partnership between NPS and DIU, enhancing their ability to attract and develop top talent and accelerate the deployment of innovative technologies in support of national defense objectives.

How do you see this framework helping to field innovative solutions for the joint force?

Penry: The school is 100%-focused on defense. Innovation here is accelerated operational insight from mid-career military students. By leveraging our academic and research infrastructure, DIU gains access to a reservoir of diverse expertise and facilities. The synergy of DIU’s acquisition activities and dedicated mission of accelerating the adoption of commercial technology, combined with our academic rigor, can lead to transformative initiatives that address complex challenges facing the modern battlefield. This ultimately enhances the effectiveness and lethality of the joint force.

With this new agreement, DIU personnel have structured opportunities to engage with educational programs and receive advanced training. In return, students and faculty get exposure to DIU’s innovative projects, enhancing their academic experience and preparing them for leadership in defense innovation.

This collaboration leverages the school’s research capabilities and DIU’s agile development processes to rapidly develop and test new and emerging technologies, ensuring robust and effective solutions.

Collaboration with industry facilitates the commercialization of technologies developed through this research. Industry partners can help bring these technologies to market and scale them, ensuring that innovations benefit both the defense sector and the broader commercial market. This capability is essential for transitioning prototypes into fully operational systems that can be deployed across the joint force.

For example, GreenSight’s DIU-funded weather drone swarm has run at the past four Joint Interagency Field Experimentation (JIFX) programs held every three months. The program welcomes dozens of companies to Camp Roberts, a U.S. Army National Guard base in southern Monterey County, California, to NPS students and faculty.

Collaborations like these can result in co-developed technologies and solutions that benefit from the combined expertise of academia, industry and defense.

Artificial intelligence, biotech and cybersecurity are quickly evolving. How does the DIU 3.0 model approach them?

Penry: DIU accelerates those leading-edge technologies that are developed by commercial industry including those leveraging AI and cybersecurity for the areas within DOD that need them most. Our process allows us to identify and select the best technologies available, prototype them at speed in the military environment where they may be used and then scale those successful technologies to the partners that need them at speed.

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