In early 2022, Naval Surface Warfare Center Philadelphia Division (NSWCPD) is expected to sign a charter announcing the latest addition to the NavalX’s Tech Bridge community: the Liberty Tech Bridge.
“The Liberty Tech Bridge will enable local members of all three naval systems commands [Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR), Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA), and Naval Information Warfare Systems Command (NIWC)] to partner effectively with industry and academia in the Philly-area,” said Whitney Tallarico, NavalX Tech Bridge director. “Using the Tech Bridge umbrella, this coalition of naval stakeholders will expand and accelerate opportunities to harness the talent and technology in the region.”
Spanning Pennsylvania, Delaware and New Jersey, the Liberty Tech Bridge is the 16th Tech Bridge within the continental United States. Named and inspired by Philadelphia’s famed Liberty Bell, the Liberty Tech Bridge’s vision is to serve as an innovation ecosystem between the U.S. Navy and industry, academia, as well as state and local governments in the region to accelerate the development and transition of innovative increases in Navy shipboard warfighting capability. Its mission will be to facilitate strategic partnerships and foster activities that accelerate the creativity and innovation that improve the capability, capacity and readiness of the Navy.
Partnering with the Naval Air Warfare Center (NAWC) and Naval Information Warfare Center Pacific (NIW-PAC), Liberty Tech Bridge’s focus areas will be:
• System Sustainability, Maintenance and Repair
• Digital Engineering
• Data Acquisition
• Exchange and Processing
• Machine Systems and Components
• Metrology and Rapid Prototyping
The Tech Bridge initiative was created in September 2019 by NavalX, the Department of the Navy’s “workforce super-connector.” Its objective: To create a collaborative environment in a commercial space where communities can easily connect and provide a space where stakeholders can share ideas and best practices, with the goal of more rapidly delivering capabilities and solutions the Navy needs.
The Tech Bridges are one of four lines of effort that fall within NavalX, enhancing collaboration between naval labs, industry, academia, and other military branches.
According to the NavalX Tech Bridge 2020 Annual Report, “The Tech Bridge innovation pipeline provides a framework for rapidly identifying programs that can support technology transition by mapping programs schedules, duration, entrance and exit criteria, etc. across the pipeline. Documentation on each of the steps in the process is used to identify bottlenecks in the project life cycles and report on the overall health status of innovation in the DON [Department of the Navy]. This process is founded on the assumption that: aligning critical stakeholders early speeds up the process and using documented steps to record and share lessons learned will continuing improving the process.”
NSWCPD Engineer Mike Lavery leads the Liberty Tech Bridge project and noted that projects like this are great for the region because they are “reinvigorating relationships with Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division Lakehurst (NAWCAD-LKE), NIWC-PAC, government partners and local universities and small businesses.”
Patrick Violante, engineering team lead for the Advanced Data Acquisition, Prototyping Technology and Virtual Environments (ADAPT.VE) at NSWCPD, has worked alongside Lavery in bringing the Liberty Tech Bridge into existence and is enthusiastic about the project.
“I’m very excited about the Liberty Tech Bridge,” said Violante. “It will be great to have a center in the area that can serve a technology transition pipeline where research and development can be conducted. The tech bridge center will enable the Navy to keep a pulse on the great work that our industry and academia partners are advancing.”
Violante added that the idea for a tech bridge in the Philadelphia area was informally mentioned six or seven years ago, but not under the tech bridge title. “It was more of an innovation cell. There’s a need for it across NAVSEA, and I’m glad the Liberty Tech Bridge will be implemented,” he said.
Bringing a tech bridge from the conceptual stage into actuality requires a huge effort from many entities.
“It’s a lot of work to set up and maintain a Tech Bridge, and it requires a commitment from all commands involved to rethink how they do business and how they build relationships regionally and nationally. I am excited to see where the Liberty Tech Bridge takes both the Department of the Navy and the regional community,” said Tallarico.
“To stand up a Tech Bridge, there must be a commitment from the command to fund the effort,” added Lavery. “We need to have a robust industry and academic ecosystem, be a Navy laboratory, and most importantly, have a connection to the fleet.”
“We are working to establish a Partnership Intermediary Agreement (PIA); a PIA enables us to engage the small business community, government partners, and academia,” continued Lavery. “The agreement allows us to collaborate on events with those communities and provide more access to all participants. Also, we are working with NAWCAD to bring their Augmented Reality Remote Maintenance Support System to NSWCPD and the Navy Machinery Community.”
Of the potential for the Liberty Tech Bridge to inspire innovation, Violante said, “We’re trying to understand how people are using digital engineering technology and through the tech bridge, we can start to work through the process of adapting Navy-specific applications. The tech bridge can also be an enabler to a lot of the work the Advanced Data Acquisition Prototyping Technology Virtual Environments (ADAPT.VE) lab does and help bring collaboration including a pipeline for new interns or new hires, small business innovative research efforts and other collaborative outreach opportunities.”
Lavery is currently working with NAVAIR Lakehurst and NIWC Pacific Philadelphia detachment to have NSWCPD leadership sign a charter to establish this joint Tech Bridge. Additionally, NavalX is planning a few technology demonstration events that focus on some of the collaborative research.
“I see the Liberty Tech Bridge as an enabler for innovation. It’s going to help Philadelphia become more innovative with the work we’re doing and hopefully we will be more efficient,” said Violante.
NSWCPD employs approximately 2,800 civilian engineers, scientists, technicians, and support personnel. The NSWCPD team does the research and development, test and evaluation, acquisition support, and in-service and logistics engineering for the non-nuclear machinery, ship machinery systems, and related equipment and material for Navy surface ships and submarines. NSWCPD is also the lead organization providing cybersecurity for all ship systems.