Pulse news magazine

Volume 24, February 2019

Picking up the pace

A new form of scouting for tomorrow’s technologies
Speed is what gives our commercial and military customers the discriminating capabilities they need

Speed in fielding new technologies is what gives our commercial and military customers the discriminating capabilities they need.

Our defense customers face unprecedented threats from technologically advanced adversaries, both in traditional warfighting realms and emerging domains, such as space and cyber. Similarly, our commercial customers need to keep pace with rapid technological change across their markets.

“In a world where pretty much everyone today has equal access to technology ... speed becomes the differentiating factor," said undersecretary of Defense for Research and Engineering Michael D. Griffin, to a Senate Armed Services subcommittee in April.

This is why accelerating the pace of transition of new technologies into commercial and defense products and services across BAE Systems is the top objective of the FAST LabsTM research and development business area.

The FAST Labs organization expanded this year to include the Technology Scouting team, which is seeking out new technologies from universities and commercial start-up companies. Their wide range of technologies have the potential for rapid transition into our products and services, in addition to supporting our internal R&D.

“We are growing new, collaborative relationships with a wide range of organizations that foster rapid innovation. For instance, we are co-sponsoring major startup incubators and accelerators; we are working with angels and venture capital investors; and we are playing a role as thought leader among experts from academia and government labs,” said Dr. Francesca Scire-Scappuzzo, senior director of Technology Scouting. “BAE Systems is committed to supporting local innovation ecosystems across the country. We help promising collaborators and suppliers through our technical expertise, market knowledge, resources, and customer network to achieve a unique competitive advantage within the aerospace and defense markets. By helping young companies quickly field their technology as part of our larger systems, we speed up innovation that brings new powerful capabilities to our customers.”

This year, FAST Labs partnered with two global high-tech accelerators that offer rigorous training, mentoring, and support (in business, legal, technical, IP and market analysis) to prepare young companies to capture the financial support of venture capital investors that will help them get their products quickly to market.

As sponsor to MassChallenge, BAE Systems will help create a new defense-focused program for startup companies in its Boston and Austin accelerator programs in 2019 and 2020. FAST Labs employees in both cities will have the opportunity to mentor those startups, creating new strategic technologies. MassChallenge will also help FAST Labs connect with other startups in its worldwide network, creating technologies with potential value for BAE Systems.

In another partnership, with Air Force Accelerator Powered by Techstars, BAE Systems will co-sponsor 10 startup companies in 2019 and 2020. Its technology focus areas will be in autonomous technology, advanced aerospace systems, unmanned aerial systems, artificial intelligence, cyber security, and other areas of interest for the Air Force. In the spring, the startups will present their progress to the technology and entrepreneurial community during events in Boston and Austin.

Like the Air Force, other military services in the Department of Defense are standing up accelerator and incubator organizations to speed acquisition of new capabilities, as an alternative to the DoD’s traditional acquisition process, which is complex and slow.

FAST Labs aims to become a trusted partner, helping these organizations leverage non-traditional suppliers, such as startup companies. BAE Systems’ product lines help these companies adapt commercial technologies for military applications (“dual-use products”), while our business areas offer channels to market for these new products and a reliable customer base. In addition, we provide the startups with the credibility they need to receive funding from venture capital entities looking for new investment opportunities in early-stage companies.

To further develop relationships in the startup community, FAST Labs hosts a series of collaboration events at a shared startup workspace, called the Cambridge Innovation Center. Titled “Defense Innovation at Startup Speed,” these events feature experts from across BAE Systems sharing their technology work, including autonomy, advanced materials and manufacturing, cyber resilience, and small satellites. It also hosts a panel discussion with leaders from government, academia, and accelerator organizations exploring opportunities and challenges associated with that market, and hears “pitch-style” presentations from related startup companies.

With all of these activities, BAE Systems has established itself as the first defense contractor in the U.S. to co-sponsor world-leading accelerators and work with multiple DoD organizations to implement new business models and strategies in the defense and aerospace markets. In doing so, we seek to increase our innovation velocity that will give our customers the edge they need.

BAE Systems is the first defense contractor in the U.S. to sponsor accelerators and work with multiple DoD organizations to implement new business models and strategies in the defense and aerospace markets.

Barb Driscoll, Communications, Merrimack, NH