Source: By NUWC Division Newport Public Affairs | Dec. 17, 2019


As Rear Adm. Eric Ver Hage, Commander, Naval Surface and Undersea Warfare Centers, astutely pointed out at the 401 Tech Bridge launch event held at Innovate Newport on Dec. 16, there are few things more iconic in Rhode Island than the Pell Bridge.

“Over the years, it has become much more than a concrete and steel connection between Aquidneck and Conanicut islands,” Ver Hage said. “The Newport Bridge — and the earlier Mount Hope and Sakonnet bridges — became gateways to and symbols of economic opportunity.

“With the freer flow of people, goods and ideas, as well as the new connections and relationships fostered, our bridges became indispensable enablers of commercial, cultural, educational and recreational success. The impact of our bridges has been profound.”

Now, some 50 years after the opening of the Pell Bridge, a new bridge made not of concrete and steel, but of innovation and collaboration is opening in the Ocean State. Ver Hage and those in attendance are hoping this 401 Tech Bridge will become just as iconic.

“The Navy is going to play a very exciting role in this new organization,” U.S. Congressman David Cicilline, (R.I.), said. “We’ve tried in a number of different ways to create avenues for this collaboration. It really is intended to bring everyone together to work to create these manufacturing ecosystems.”

In addition to Ver Hage and Cicilline, Naval Undersea Warfare Center (NUWC) Division Newport Commanding Officer Capt. Michael Coughlin, United States Senators Jack Reed and Shelden Whitehouse (both R.I.), Polaris Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) Center Director Christian Cowan, Rhode Island Secretary of Commerce Stefan Pryor and University of Rhode Island (URI) President David Dooley also spoke to the importance of the 401 Tech Bridge.

“The warfare centers recognize that to be successful, whether it is on a submarine, on a ship or solving a technical challenge, you need a good team,” Coughlin said. “We realize that expanding the advantage means reaching out beyond our Navy partners, warfare centers and traditional defense contractors. We need our team to include small businesses and educational institutions that don’t traditionally work with the Navy.”

The 401 Tech Bridge, which is one of six tech bridges nationally under the auspices of Department of the Navy’s (DON) NavalX, is designed to do just that — particularly in the field of composites. As the DON identified its need to manufacture at scale, the Rhode Island Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) was simultaneously pulling a group of stakeholders from industry and academia together to increase the capabilities of the Rhode Island maritime manufacturing community. These initiatives, coupled with the State of Rhode Island’s multi-million-dollar investment in local innovation centers, culminated in very fertile ground for collaboration on Navy challenges.

“We all know we’re in a global competition in many aspects — particularly with the Chinese — and we know we have to leverage our resources,” Reed said. “This is the future and we have to seize the future today or be in danger of losing out dramatically. The 401 Tech Bridge is one of those places where all roads converge, and you get this combination of focused collaboration which is going to be the key to our success.”

For more information on NavalX and Tech Bridges go to:  www.secnav.navy.mil/agility or https://www.secnav.navy.mil/agility/Pages/techbridges.aspx

To test the viability of the 401 Tech Bridge, the Office of Naval Research (ONR) and NUWC Division Newport collaborated to source Navy problems out to industry to solve Naval Sea Systems Command’s (NAVSEA) first-ever Prize Challenge. Three problems were posted to Challenge.gov and at Innovate Newport on Dec. 16. Goetz Composites of Bristol, Response Technologies of West Warwick, both in Rhode Island, and Spencer Composites of Sacramento, California were announced as the selected winners.

“We received more than 30 submissions, and with the help of Innovate Newport we were able to have the companies come in to pitch them and ask them questions directly,” said Maria Medeiros, ONR program manager for Advanced Power and Energy Undersea Applications, Naval Enterprise Partnership Teaming with Universities for National Excellence, and Navy Undersea Research. “These three companies will received $250,000 for six months to come up with a feasible product. From there, we will pick one to go forward with, and that company will received $750,000.”

The Prize Challenge was not the only new collaborative road paved at the launch event. At its conclusion, Coughlin and Cowan signed a Partnership Intermediary Agreement (PIA) between NUWC Division Newport and the Polaris MEP.

“There is an incredible partnership going on here in Rhode Island,” Cowan said. “It highlights how special what we have here is.”

Through Polaris MEP, NUWC Division Newport is now teaming with URI, the Composites Alliance of Rhode Island and the Rhode Island Textile Innovation Network to reach out to businesses and educational institutions. This will allow them to conduct cooperative research and development to solve Navy problems with small business innovation and enable us to solve commercial problems with warfare center inventions.

The Tech Bridge construct also will provide creative spaces for the Navy, industry, non-profits and academia to collaborate that are located off-base and easily accessible. This may include innovation spaces at the URI’s new Fascitelli Center for Engineering and a proposed Portsmouth, Rhode Island, facility this coming year. The partnership also may take advantage of collaboration facilities like those available at Innovate Newport.

“It’s part of our intrinsic mission to assist in the economic mission of the state we call home. That means we need to teach, and we need to research,” URI President Dooley said. “It’s my strong conviction as a public research university in Rhode Island and in the United States that it is another responsibility of ours to assist in providing for the common defense of our nation. The talents that we turn out has an important role to play in national security, and it is a perfect fit for the university to be involved with the Navy.

“Admiral Ver Hage and Captain Coughlin, you’ve been great partners, and we’re very proud of our relationship with the United States Navy.”

While all those in attendance were proud of what the 401 Tech Bridge has accomplished thus far, Whitehouse was quick to note that there is still plenty more to be done.

“This is a really exciting model, but this is the beginning. This is not the end,” Whitehouse said. “From here going forward, we need to work really hard, all together, to make sure that this is the success that it is capable of being. I’m all in.”

For a video report about this event, go to:  https://youtu.be/gQkw9EZaW9M

For more information about the 401 Tech Bridge, contact NUWC Division Newport 401 Tech Bridge Regional Director Dr. Steven Bordonaro at steven.bordonaro@navy.mil.

Source: By NUWC Division Newport Public Affairs | Dec. 17, 2019

NUWC Newport is a shore command of the U.S. Navy within the Naval Sea Systems Command, which engineers, builds and supports America’s fleet of ships and combat systems. NUWC Newport provides research, development, test and evaluation, engineering and fleet support for submarines, autonomous underwater  systems, undersea offensive and defensive weapons systems, and countermeasures associated with undersea warfare. 

Currently celebrating its 150th anniversary, NUWC Newport is the oldest warfare center in the country, tracing its heritage to the Naval Torpedo Station established on Goat Island in Newport Harbor in 1869.  Commanded by Captain Michael Coughlin, NUWC Newport maintains major detachments in West Palm Beach, Fla., and Andros Island in the Bahamas, as well as test facilities at Seneca Lake and Fisher’s Island, New York, Leesburg, Florida, and Dodge Pond, Connecticut.

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