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NEWS | March 4, 2024

NUWC Division Newport hosts discussion on collaboration opportunities

By NUWC Division Newport Public Affairs

Bill Zappone, a member of the Technology Partnerships Office (TPO) at the Naval Undersea Warfare Center (NUWC) Division Newport, believes that many scientists and engineers at the warfare center aren’t aware of the myriad opportunities available to them through collaborations with outside organizations.

To that end, Zappone, a technology and commercialization specialist, and Julie Kallfelz, director of the Northeast Tech Bridge, hosted a panel discussion on Feb. 7 to detail how the TPO can help projects succeed by using the “tools in the toolbox.”

“Our mission is to partner with outside organizations, and we do that in several ways,” Zappone said. “This is a forum on the toolbox, so our TPO office has a set of tools that we use.”

Joining Zappone and Kallfelz on the panel were Molly Magee, chief executive officer of SENEDIA, the Alliance for Defense, Tech and Innovation; Lee Silvestre, NavalX coordinator for the Northeast Tech Bridge and SENEDIA; Erik Brine, director of the 401 Tech Bridge, a nonprofit organization that works in conjunction with the Northeast Tech Bridge; and Linda Larson, operations manager at the 401 Tech Bridge.

These organizations are “our eyes and ears on the ground with industry, who know and understand very much who’s out there, what their capacity is, what their skill level is, what the maturity level is,” Kallfelz said. “This is a force extension for NUWC Division Newport. These partnerships give us even greater reach and capacity.”

SENEDIA and the 401 Tech Bridge operate under Partnership Intermediary Agreements (PIA), which are used to “enable partnerships between Division Newport and a semi-private entity to develop potential interactions with state and local businesses, increasing the utilizations of division facilities and expertise.”

Division Newport also has PIAs with the University of Rhode Island Business Engagement Center, the City of Newport, Polaris MEP, which promotes the manufacturing industry in the state, and the Mississippi Enterprise for Technology.

How can outside organizations help Division Newport employees?

Magee opened the discussion by detailing some of the SENEDIA-sponsored events that allow industry representatives to interact with Division Newport scientists and engineers. Among them is the upcoming Blue Innovation Symposium, slated for Feb. 26-29 at the Wyndham Newport Hotel in Middletown, Rhode Island.

Day 2 of the symposium will feature a “technical exchange” panel that will include Division Newport’s Bill Craig, advanced technology manager in the Undersea Warfare Electromagnetic Systems Department. The topic of discussion will center on maritime communication in contested spaces.

“What we’re setting up at this event is a high-level discussion of technologies that a number of companies can provide. There will be government SMEs there to listen, and then there will be the ability to go off and have one-on-one conversations, where you can delve a little bit deeper,” said Magee, a former Division Newport employee.

Another large-scale event is Defense Innovation Days, which takes place during the summer months in downtown Newport. Over three days, it brings together national security experts, top U.S. Navy personnel and defense industry leaders to explore innovative solutions to technological and manufacturing problems.

“There are many benefits to collaborating,” Magee said. “We put on a number of events where we collaborate, and we open it up for NUWC to participate.”

Brine touted the technology demonstrations hosted by the 401 Tech Bridge, which give businesses — in many cases smaller businesses — a chance to showcase their product. In the coming months, Brine said there will be a “playoff series,” where companies will compete against one another in four different technology areas.

The opening rounds of this series will be held virtually in March, April, May and June. The companies that are successful will be invited to Rhode Island to participate in an in-person demonstration at the Blue Tech Demo Day in late August.

Larsen explained the 401 Tech Bridge can conduct tech scouting, where the organization works directly with a Division Newport principal investigator around a particular problem, or performs market research for the principal investigator. She said the nonprofit will “scan the globe” before reporting a list of companies that can satisfy the need. From there, 401 Tech Bridge can coordinate meetings or demonstrations between the two parties that could lead to a procurement for the purpose of testing or experimentation, Larsen said.

“It’s really us working outside the gate, working with you inside the gate, to identify those companies and/or technologies,” she said.

How can a collaboration progress?

Once face-to-face meetings between Division Newport staffers and industry or academia representatives have occurred, or tech scouting has been conducted, where can a relationship go from there? Zappone talked about the various agreements that can be signed to move collaborations forward.

One of the most common is a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA), which allows Division Newport and one or more non-federal parties to perform collaborative and mutually beneficial research and development (R&D) consistent with the warfare center’s mission.

Educational Partnership Agreements (EPA) encourage and enhance study in scientific disciplines through collaboration between defense labs and academia. These pacts support STEM initiatives and sponsor student interns. There is also the Naval Engineering Education Consortium (NEEC) program, which aims to attract and accelerate the development of the next generation of naval scientists and engineers through project-based education and hands-on experience.

Should R&D, perhaps through a CRADA, lead to a prototype, an agreement can be signed via the Other Transactions Authority (OTA) program. The OTA at Division Newport is operated by the Undersea Technology Innovation Consortium, of which Magee is executive director.

“That’s another tool in the toolbox, where we have a consortium of companies that have undersea technology capabilities that match what NUWC has identified,” said Magee, who noted the OTA process is speedier than a Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR) contract.

Additionally, the TPO also handles the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs at Division Newport. The purpose of the SBIR is to strengthen the role of innovative small business concerns in federally funded research or R&D. The STTR requires the small business to have a research partner consisting of a university, a federally funded R&D center, or a qualified nonprofit research institution.

To get a general idea of the full spectrum of strategies, Magee suggested seeking out the Department of Defense contracting cone, which lists all of the FAR-based and non-FAR-based solutions for federal acquisitions.

“This is the toolbox, all the different tools we have available to us to do the work that we do here on this campus,” Kallfelz said while holding up a printout of the contracting cone. “And there is a tool for everything. There may not be a perfect tool for everything, but there is a tool for everything.”

Ultimately, Kallfelz said, if a Division Newport scientist or engineer is running into a problem, or can’t solve an issue, reach out to her at

“Call me, stop by my office, email me,” she said. “I will certainly be happy to sit down and just noodle through whatever it is you’re trying to work through and see what the right tools are. We’ve got a big toolbox. I can pull out the toolbox and connect you with any of these folks to help us figure out what the next steps are.”

Prize recently awarded

In other Northeast Tech Bridge news, a $10,000 prize was recently awarded to an aerospace company through an accelerator program.

The company, WingXpand, based in St. Louis, Missouri, was chosen as the winner of the $10,000 prize as part of the MassChallenge Accelerator program after a series of technical briefings were held Feb. 6 at the 401 Tech Bridge Collaboration Center in Middletown, Rhode Island.

According to its website, WingXpand builds a drone that “combines the small size and simplicity of a quadcopter with the horsepower of 8-foot airplane wings.” The company says the drone is the first aircraft of its kind to have a smart artificial intelligence computer onboard.

Fourteen innovative companies across a variety of technologies went head-to-head in presenting five-minute “speed briefs” on their capabilities before a panel of judges that included representatives from the 401 Tech Bridge, NUWC Division Newport, Salve Regina University and MITRE, a nonprofit company that manages federally funded R&D centers.

In addition to the briefings, the companies had to submit an application and a two-page technical white paper. The judging rubric weighted the application as 20% of the overall score, the technical white paper as 60% and the presentation as 20%.

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 Capt. Chad Hennings, NUWC Newport maintains major detachments in West Palm Beach, Florida, 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.

Join our team! NUWC Division Newport, one of the 20 largest employers in Rhode Island, employs a diverse, highly trained, educated, and skilled workforce. We are continuously looking for engineers, scientists, and other STEM professionals, as well as talented business, finance, logistics and other support experts who wish to be at the forefront of undersea research and development. Please connect with NUWC Division Newport Recruiting at this site-  and follow us on LinkedIn @NUWC-Newport and on Facebook @NUWCNewport.