U.S. Naval War College held an interdisciplinary summit April 30 to May 2 to explore “innovation ecosystems” and how the concept might be helpful as the U.S. Navy seeks to be more agile in an age of rapidly changing technology.
The event, Diffusion and Adoption of Innovation Studio Summit 2.0, was held in conjunction with Naval Sea Systems Command Warfare Centers. It follows the first DAISS which occurred in March 2018.
In his opening remarks, college Provost Lewis Duncan said that organizational inertia is a challenge to be confronted when trying to harness the excitement of scientific discovery.
“Our technological advantage is diminishing over near-peers and in some cases has disappeared,” Duncan said. “And yet we can recapture that by accelerating the adoption of innovations and the transition of ideas into invoices. That’s what the next few days of this summit will address.”
Organizers said they were responding to direction handed down by Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson that calls for the U.S. Navy to compete aggressively, with a particular focus on the increasing use of the maritime domain, the rise of global information systems and the rate of technological innovation.
“We are in the ‘sci-fi’ future. Years ago, I can recall thinking about what science fiction might look like, and lo and behold, we are here in terms of a revolution in military affairs,” said Associate Provost for Warfighting Research and Development Will Bundy, co-chair of the summit on behalf of the Naval War College.
“The accelerating emergence of technology will disrupt how we fight, how we create combat-capable forces to provide deterrence and how we operate on a day-in and day-out basis,” Bundy told the group.
“The private sector is moving out quickly in the adoption of these technologies. We tend to be cautious followers,” he said. “We need to find ways to bring industry into the discussion earlier. The ecosystem idea is what we think will assist us.”
Thomas Choinski, deputy director for undersea warfare at Naval Undersea Warfare Center headquarters in Newport, discussed the idea of using an interdisciplinary lens to think about technology.
Choinski presented a chart showing four military “communities” in separate circles: doctrine; science and engineering; acquisition and warfighters.
“We have an Industrial Age view of technology. We need to move away from that,” said Choinski, co-chair of the summit.
“What we need to do to build interdisciplinary agility in the [U.S.] Navy’s innovation ecosystem is to get these four communities to work together harmoniously,” he said.
“The more complex we make this – and it is complex – the less likely we are going to be to adopt and more forward with innovation,” Choinski concluded.
“However, if we can figure out a way to be agile in using this system, perhaps we can gain an assymetric advantage against our adversaries.”
The first day of the summit was unclassified, and the second two days were conducted at a classified level.
National experts from institutions such as MIT’s School of Management, the Defense Acquisition University and Naval Surface Warfare Center, Crane Division, spoke to the group on day one, followed by sessions on eco-system ideas and a panel discussion on the “blue economy.”
The last two days of the summit included working-group sessions where innovation ecosystems for warfare communities were identified.
Bundy said that results from the summit will be shared with U.S. Navy leaders and used to establish these ecosystems, create “centers of innovation” and to adopt processes to accelerate delivery of technological power to the fleet.