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NEWS | May 2, 2024

Dual Use Technologies Discussed at Navy’s Inaugural Inland Empire Innovation Summit

By Linda Welz, Naval Surface Warfare Center Corona Corporate Communications Naval Surface Warfare Center, Corona Division

The Navy’s inaugural Inland Empire Innovation Summit was held April 23, in Riverside, Calif., bringing together more than 325 participants from the Department of Defense (DoD), local community leaders, venture capitalists, entrepreneurs, small businesses, and academia to discuss the state of innovation as it relates to national security and regional economic initiatives.

“We’re making history here. As Riverside’s only Navy base, we are absolutely thrilled to be the nexus of this event as it comes together for Tech Bridge as a whole and for the Inland Empire,” said NSWC Corona Division Commanding Officer Capt. Michael Aiena. “Everyone here is collaborating so people can forward what they are working on and make solutions occur faster, easier and more affordable.”

Inland Empire Tech Bridge, anchored by Naval Surface Warfare Center, Corona Division, along with NavalX and FedTech, organized the event that featured 16 small businesses showcasing their concepts for commercializing dual-use technologies, solutions to address challenges, or technology-focused areas sourced from across the military and civilian enterprise.

One example of dual use is sensor technology that the Navy patented and is now being further developed by companies to be used in the commercial marketplace for Fentanyl detection, said NSWC Corona Division Acting Deputy Technical Director Richard Schumacher.

“We’ll be able to leverage industry improvements to this technology and apply them in sensors and measurement devices used for chemical and biological agent detection in the Navy and across the DoD,” Schumacher said.

The Tech Bridge’s Crucible Innovation Accelerator currently has two components, the Startup Studio and the Accelerator, according to Inland Empire Tech Bridge Director Troy Clarke.

“The Startup Studio creates new companies around either federal lab or university technology that has military applications,” said Clarke. “The Accelerator expedites existing startups to expand their market, engage with dual-use technology that benefits the private sector and the government, and provides guidance, mentorship, and training on how to get them to the next level.”

The Crucible Innovation Accelerator helps expand the technologies’ market size, which helps attract investors that these small businesses need to grow and bring the technology to bear. It also helps create efficiencies through manufacturing and production, ultimately lowering costs for the government as well, Clarke said. The 16 companies in the initial cohort are all pursuing dual-use technology that benefits the military as well as the private sector, he added.

“The Inland Empire is going to lead the way to find new ways of doing things,” said Representative Ken Calvert, congressman for California's 41st district. “Tech Bridge has been a very integral part of that. The challenges are just getting through to the right people where you can actually get to procurement of a particular capability for the warfighter.”

That’s where Tech Bridge steps in to help make those connections between the small, local entrepreneurs, and government and industry stakeholders.

“Tech Bridge is a tie to each of the communities across the entire country,” said NSWC Corona Division Chief Technology Officer Taylor Cole. “Each of those communities bring labor forces and innovation that aligns with that economic development scheme that sits in each of those regions.”

The Navy wants to provide opportunities for academia and industrial partners to have solutions to challenges they face, Aiena said.

“That’s part of it, but we also want to be part of the energy and advocating for solutions, so we bring everybody together and give them networking options and opportunities,” Aiena said.

Calvert said he expects change in the DoD and that there is no time to waste.

“We have adversaries on the rise, (so) we have to get back on track because there are people that represent evil on this planet, and it’s up to us to fight against it,” Calvert said.

NSWC Corona Division has provided analysis and assessment for the Navy since 1964. With experience in gauging the Navy’s warfighting capability, NSWC Corona is a leader in data analytics. Corona utilizes networked data environments, data and visualization, and measurement science technologies to support the Navy, enabling informed decision-making for the warfighter. Anchor to the Inland Empire Tech Bridge, NSWC Corona is located in Norco, California, with detachments in Fallbrook and Seal Beach and personnel in 14 additional locations.