WEST BETHESDA, Md. —
Researchers from Naval Surface Warfare Center, Carderock Division (NSWCCD) presented their inventions to a panel similar to that of the TV show "Shark Tank" at the 2nd annual Innovation Discovery Event (IDE), hosted by the Technology Transfer Office (TTO) in West Bethesda, Maryland, Aug. 30.
The event explored five developing technological innovations.
"The goal of the 'shark tank' was to discover potential commercial applications or other Navy or military applications of the technologies, to expand the reach beyond what was originally disclosed," NSWCCD Director of Technology Transfer Dr. Joseph Teter said.
Four inventors presented their inventions -- either hardware, software or a process -- to panel members representing entrepreneurs, venture capitalists and business development experts, showcasing how the Navy will use the technology. The panel then pitched ideas on how the inventions might be used in other applications.
"It's kind of like a childlike view, where you get a brilliantly simple idea from a child about something," said Mike Wade, head for the Ship and Submarine Acquisition Engineering Division.
He presented the industrial Human Augmentation Telemetry (iHAT) device, which is a new and novel micro-sensor system integrated into a standard industrial hard hat, providing the user with real-time information pertaining to environmental hazards, work-site conditions and personal biomedical feedback.
"Nobody [from the panel] was in the business of what I was explaining, so they were able to take a very objective assessment of it," Wade said. "An honest third party that doesn't have a dog in the fight, so to speak, or a hidden agenda can bring a lot of fresh ideas."
A Department of Defense (DoD) partnership intermediary, TechLink, facilitated the event. The company's primary purpose is to broker license agreements between DoD labs and U.S. industry for manufacture and use of DoD inventions, according to their website. TechLink is funded by the Office of Naval Research (ONR) to facilitate the IDE.
"This is a big networking opportunity here," said Mike Reilly, a Techlink employee who was on site during the event. "There's a lot of intelligent people here and a lot of good connections to be made. Scientists, engineers and subject matter experts really enjoy getting out of the lab and talking about their stuff with intelligent people. It raises morale and inspires new ideas."
Wade, who was presenting at his first IDE, said he is looking to establish a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) with a commercial entity to further develop the iHat. He said the IDE format and discussion with panelists and the audience gave an opportunity for a lot of out-of-the-box thinking that someone intimately involved with the invention wouldn't have. The IDE panelists brainstormed and pitched 53 potential ideas the iHat technology could be used for, such as athletic monitoring, medical alert, driver fatigue monitoring and a "hat of shame" for drivers under the influence.
The ideas are not explored in depth at the IDE, but further investigation may mean adding the ideas to a patent application. If the technology already has an issued patent, the researcher can file for new patents. Teter said all the technologies presented are in one of three stages -- either they are invention disclosures, patent applications or issued patents.
The panel members, who were asked to attend by the Maryland Technology Development Corporation (TEDCO) and who do so without compensation included Peter Helfet, independent business development consultant; Michael David of Capitol City Techlaw, PLLC; Matt Sinfield, a welding engineer in NSWCCD's Welding, Processing and Nondestructive Examination Branch; Lisa May of Murphian Consulting; Ron Kaese of TEDCO; and Todd Stave of Blue Vigil. Audience members also participating in discussions included employees from ONR, Carderock and other Naval Sea Systems commands. The panel members may vary each year.
Other Carderock inventors were Phil Dudt, an engineer with the Hull Response and Protection Branch, who presented both Surface Enhancement and Compaction Using Glass Failure Generated Pulse and Lightweight Armor with Slide Region For Slidably Redirecting Projectiles; Eric Shields, a mechanical engineer with the Advanced Power and Energy Branch, who presented Hybrid Power Systems Historical Load and Resource Self-Optimization; and Dr. John Miesner, an engineer in the Structural Acoustics and Target Strength Branch, who presented Large Area Magnetic Flux Sensor.
"There was a good mix of technologies presented, and I enjoyed the process," May said. "I thought it was well-facilitated; I learned a lot about brainstorming and actually got to flex some creative muscles I didn't know that I had."
May said she was enjoying a bit of a Navy reunion by coming to Carderock, having started her career in 1984 at Newport News Shipbuilding. After that, she spent years working at NASA, including as lead program executive for the Mars program, and later moved on to start a consulting company specifically to work with tech start-ups, which she runs today. She said she is particularly interested in what she called the next step for inventors, which is helping them focus on applications they want to pursue with those inventions, and IDE was a fun and satisfying way to do that.
In all, there were 214 new ideas of applications, target markets and commercialization opportunities for these federally-developed inventions, Teter said.
Teter said this year's IDE improved upon last year's by fielding five projects instead of three, and they modified the process allowing more time for brainstorming, which netted an average of 43 new ideas per invention, versus last year's average of 23. He expects this event will result in effective technology transfer for all five projects to academia, industry and local and state governments through CRADAs, Patent License Agreements, and Educational Partnership Agreements.
"Events like these will hopefully show our Navy researchers the usefulness of patents," Teter said. "The Navy encourages their people to patent, and if a commercial entity comes along that wants to license the Navy's technology for something other than the limited government use it was invented for, that is a great benefit to us because now someone else will want to actually produce the technology and the Navy has the option to then buy the product from them."