PORT HUENEME, Calif. –
Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition James “Hondo” Guerts designated Fathomwerx, a local innovation lab created through a partnership between Naval Surface Warfare Center, Port Hueneme Division (NSWC PHD), the Port of Hueneme and other industry partners, as the Ventura Tech Bridge to the U.S. Navy’s nationwide Naval Agility (NavalX) network of partners.
The Ventura Tech Bridge was among six new regions announced Tuesday, May 12 during a national, web-based press conference held Guerts and Cmdr. Sam Gray, NavalX Tech Bridges national director. The pair also welcomed two other new California locations—the Central Coast Tech Bridge out of the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, Calif., and the Inland Empire Tech Bridge out of NSWC Corona Division in Corona and Norco, Calif., bringing the total nationwide to 12.
Tech Bridges are relationship-based networks established within regions of the U.S. where connections already exist among U.S. Navy and Marine Corps facilities, private industry and academia. A Tech Bridge provides a platform so those relationships can expand through a broader, national network to innovate new ideas, products and solutions for the Navy’s fleet and warfighter. Guerts established NavalX in February 2019 and announced the first five Tech Bridge locations in September, with a sixth announced in December.
“Through close collaboration with regional partners, Tech Bridges increase access to local innovation ecosystems, allowing the Department of the Navy (DON) to harness advancements in industry,” Guerts said during the conference. “By reducing barriers between the Navy and non-traditional partners, such as start-ups, small businesses, academia, nonprofits and private capital, we are able to identify the best solutions to DON challenges.”
NSWC PHD’s Office of Technology helped create the Ventura Tech Bridge through an agreement with the Ventura County Economic Development Collaborative, which leases the space from a second partner, the Port of Hueneme. A fourth partner, Camarillo, Calif.-based Matter Labs, was brought in to attract small, high-tech companies and other entrepreneurial organizations to also use the lab and collaborate with PHD personnel and each other.
As part of the process to join NavalX, Alan Jaeger, manager of NSWC PHD’s Office of Research and Technology Applications, was named the director of the Ventura Tech Bridge. Jaeger has served as the on-site manager for Fathomwerx Lab since it opened Nov. 26, 2019.
“Ventura County is an excellent ecosystem for a NavalX Tech Bridge because it is home to a diverse and geographically rich environment that includes public and private universities, a high-technology corridor, as well as Naval Base Ventura County,” Jaeger said.
NBVC includes Port Hueneme, Point Mugu and San Nicolas Island. NBVC serves the Pacific Fleet as an all-in-one mobilization site, deep water sea port, railhead and airfield.
“Our Tech Bridge has already partnered with regional stakeholders to establish an off-site innovation laboratory—Fathomwerx—as a public-private consortium and resource for technical innovation and capability transition,” Jaeger continued.
The laboratory is within a 60,000-square-foot warehouse and includes an indoor flying cage to test unmanned aerial systems, a 75,000-gallon above ground pool for surface and underwater technologies, a micro-climate chamber to test weathering and corrosion, thermal imaging equipment, wood and metal lathes and other traditional manufacturing machinery, additive manufacturing equipment for prototyping and testing, and will soon include a mini-lab with augmented and virtual reality headsets and monitors.
“By formally joining the NavalX Tech Bridge network, we expand that virtual network of innovators, and can further engage academic and industry partners for advanced In-Service Engineering-based service concepts and capabilities for the Navy fleet and warfighters,” according to Greg DeVogel, NSWC PHD chief technology officer.
The first Tech Bridges have already created a high-performing network of collaborators in the DON, fostering the use of multiple funding authorities and accelerating project timelines through early partnering with scaling entities and resource sponsors.
“We’re not hyper-focused on specific technologies; rather we want to find groups of people we want to bring together, and then let that expand,” Gray said. “The power of this is in the network.”