NAVAIR Chief Technology Officer Todd Parcell speaks to Navy acquisition professionals and technologists and small business representatives on NAVAIR’s technology focus areas.

DON showcase brings acquisition professionals, small businesses together

Small businesses’ creativity gives naval aviation an advantage in delivering the warfighting capabilities Sailors and Marines need to accomplish their mission. That’s according to Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) Chief Technology Officer Todd Parcell at the DON’s NAVAIR and Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) Technology Information Exchange Showcase on March 13. Formerly the Forum for Small Business Innovation Research/Small Business Technology Transfer (SBIR/STTR) Transition (FST) Days, the two-day annual showcase is the principal venue across the DON to connect small business technologies with acquisition professionals and technologists.

“The Chief Technology Office is the primary adviser to Commander, Naval Air Systems Command and the program offices regarding technology trends, issues and investments. The team conducts technology scans, continually seeking innovative solutions and ideas that address warfighter needs and then champion those across the Naval Aviation Enterprise,” Parcell said in his keynote speech on day two of the event. “We are seeing advancements in revolutionary technologies from the commercial sector, which allows small nations or non-state actors access to that capability for military purposes. This leveraging is eroding our technological advantages and portends a future with very different warfighting and escalation dynamics. There is a sense of urgency to field new capabilities more than ever before.”

Dominance in warfighting, he said, will go to those who not only create the best technologies but also who are able to best protect, integrate and rapidly field the technologies in creative ways. Small businesses, he added, are key players in this effort. “My ask is that you be imaginative about the possibilities,” he added. “Develop transformational and revolutionary technologies that provide significant military advantages.”

That capability will come from, in part, the synergy of ideas across stakeholders, NAVAIR SBIR/STTR Programs Program Manager Kristi DePriest said in her opening remarks on day two. She encouraged attending acquisition professionals and technologists to talk with the small businesses showcasing their technologies at the event and in other venues and to consider the investments made by other system commands (SYSCOM). “One of the primary benefits of getting industry and different SYSCOMs together is to advance collaboration,” she said. “There are technologies here that have large investments behind them by NAVAIR, NAVSEA, the Marine Corps, and (the Naval Information Warfare System Command). See what is out there and focus on how they can be applied to NAVAIR’s areas of technological needs. You may find a technology that may accelerate your efforts to provide capability to the fleet.”

Persistent Maritime Unmanned Aircraft Systems Program Office (PMA-262) Advanced Development Lead Amber Spiegel who attended the event, said she was encouraged by seeing the display of three technologies currently under contract with her program office, realizing those technologies may meet other programs’ needs as well. She also found three promising technologies at the showcase that she will take back to her program office for consideration. “It was informative to see how other programs’ technologies have been successful, and inspiring to see how it’s possible to transition my portfolio,” she explained.

“I’ve also built contacts for future collaboration and problem solving as well as identified resources that are currently in place,” she added.

Like Spiegel, Naval Air Warfare Center Training Systems Division (NAWCTSD) SBIR Coordinator John Hodak found the showcase helpful in making connections and learning about technologies developed for other providers and recommends other decision makers attend similar events. “Introduce yourself and go talk to company representatives at events like these,” he advised. “There may be synergies and opportunities, and perhaps, some partial solutions that you just didn’t realize as the company was developing for a platform not exactly like yours.  It is during these events where you may introduce yourself to someone and learn something you didn’t know was possible.”

Spiegel believes meeting today’s and tomorrow’s warfighting needs depend on innovation, rigorous engagement and tenacity. “Events like these are just one part of providing solutions,” she said. “Communication is very important, especially about the acquisition process. Transitioning a technology from a prototype to a program of record doesn’t happen on its own, but only through commitment from and persistence by all stakeholders. The stronger the partnership a business has with a program office, the greater the likelihood of success.”

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