BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — NSWC Crane News is back in Bloomington for the second and final day of the inaugural “Innovation Crossover: The Shape of Things to Come” conference at the Bloomington Convention Center.
We will update this blog throughout the day, highlighting the key points from the many scheduled speakers as well as the breakout sessions in the afternoon. You can also follow along with the event on Twitter by following @NAVSEACrane. We encourage you to participate in the conversation by using the hashtag #Innoxover2016.
Today’s agenda begins with two Key Note speakers, Dr. Walter Jones, Office of Naval Research, and Ian Steff, Applied Research Institute.
Highlights from Dr. Walter Jones’ Key Note
Dr. Walter Jones, Office of Naval Research, had never spent time in Indiana before this week’s Innovation Crossover conference. He’d flown through Indianapolis on his way to Illinois on numerous occasions, but this two-day event opened his eyes to all that Indiana has to offer.
“I had no idea of the gem that exists in this part of the United States,” Dr. Jones said. “I had a blast. The best part is talking to all of these bright people. They are working on problems that are real and interesting. You seem to be having a great time at Crane, so keep up the good work.”
Dr. Jones’ presentation gave the audience an in-depth look at exactly what the ONR does and how they spend their $2.1 billion each year. The majority of that money is delegated to research and trying to figure out what ideas are feasible and ready to move forward, and which ones are not.
“If you don’t spend the time on the research, then the rest of it just doesn’t happen,” Dr. Jones said. “We don’t just do research for the fun of it … though it is fun.”
Dr. Jones said the ONR uses both basic and applied research to cast seeds far and wide to consider as many possible ideas and solutions as possible.
“If you don’t do that, you’ll be short-sided and won’t have much of a future in science and technology,” Dr. Jones said.
The ONR doesn’t take a lot of risks in the initial research stage, but it has something it calls “Technology Pull” which is much riskier but also has the potential for a much higher payoff. Examples of such projects include railguns and lasers, which are especially innovative and intriguing to those in the industrial world.
Dr. Jones said the ONR recognizes the significance of collaboration with industry and university, so much so that the ONR decides what to focus on based on the needs of others.
At ONR, it’s all about a process they call High Velocity Learning. The steps are simple: Experiment — Learn — Adjust — Deploy.
“I like to joke that we don’t do anything at ONR, we enable other people to do things,” Dr. Jones said. “Each side has to bend a little bit. What’s worked is a place that brings those sides together. If you have Crane as one of your partners, there won’t be an issue with keeping the government involved. It’s just a matter of bringing together the people and understanding each other’s needs. There are no secret ingredients.”
The growth of ideas — and the process of innovation — is accelerated at the ONR, Dr. Jones said, because he and his colleagues report directly to the Secretary of the Navy. He also encouraged the audience to attend the latest Naval Institute conference in Washington D.C. next July because all six program officers will be at the event and will be accessible to those in attendance.
“We have direct access to high-level people,” Dr. Jones said. “It enables us to do more because we sit in the staff meetings every week. We can get your questions answered and your ideas heard. The fun thing about working with places like Crane and universities is we get to dabble in all of it.”
Highlights from Ian Steff’s Key Note:
Dr. Jones was certainly a hard act to follow, but Mr. Ian Steff captured the audience’s attention with his speech on the importance of the Innovative Crossover event and how it could help shape the next 10 years.
Steff, the Chief Innovation Officer for the state of Indiana, used the state’s bicentennial celebration to look toward the future, asking the audience, “What might the next 100 years look like?”
Steff mentioned the progression of driverless cars and virtual reality, and the role Indiana can play in helping to lead that future innovation.
“Is Indiana going to lead that revolution that is offered to us? I think we will,” Steff said. “In fact, I know we will because we have for the last 200 years. This [event] is a significant milestone. It highlights Crane’s use of progressive partnerships. The development of the ideas and research ideas generated here will become focus areas in the future.”
Like the other speakers from the event, Steff highlighted that working together is not only a good idea — it’s essential for future prosperity.
“You really have to make these things relevant to industry,” Steff said. “Ask them, ‘Where do they want to go over the next 10 years?’ If we’re not focused on the challenges being addressed by industry, we will not be talking about the ARI (Applied Research Institute) in 10 years because it will become irrelevant.
“There’s so much convergence in our industries. If we don’t take advantage of that, we will have lost something in a big way. But fortunately, we are having those discussions.”
Steff is an Indiana transplant, but he couldn’t say enough good things about the state and the people that inhabit it.
“It is an exciting time to be here in Indiana. The research and talent that came from Indiana was second to none,” Steff said. “That’s what led to our global connection partnerships.
“We are huge fans of NSWC Crane. I can’t tell you how proud we are to have them here. I couldn’t speak more highly of their leaders. It’s a great privilege to work with them.”
Steff also took time to thank the Lilly Endowment, which provided the funding for this event and the research and development associated with it.
University Panel: IU, Purdue, and USI working together
It isn’t often that you can get officials from Indiana University, Purdue University and the University of Southern Indiana together on one stage, but that’s exactly what happened Thursday afternoon at the Innovation Crossover event.
Dr. Linda Bennett, USI President, Mr. Dan Hasler, President of the Purdue Research Foundation, and Dr. Brad Wheeler, IU’s Vice President of IT, served on a 75-minute panel and had a productive and interesting conversation about innovation from the perspective of the academic world.
“There aren’t too many states where people from three different universities can collaborate and work together,” Dr. Bennett said.
On Wednesday, the audience heard from a panel of three experts from the industrial field, and both days of the conference featured keynote speeches from government officials.
The overarching goal of the event was to bring together those three worlds — government, industry, and academia — to find ways to work together and create new and innovative ideas, and turn those ideas into results.
Thursday’s panel of university representatives tied that initiative together nicely. All three panelists were open and honest about the challenges their respective institutions have faced, and proposed ways to solve some of those challenges.
- Dr. Bennett (USI) pointed out the fact that every university across the country uses the word “innovation” somewhere in its mission statement.
“But how are you going to actually innovate, how are you going to make it real?,” Dr. Bennett asked.
She wasn’t just asking questions, though. Dr. Bennett provided her own answers. She admitted that USI isn’t a research institution, and isn’t trying to be. Instead, USI takes more of a pragmatic, hands-on approach, Dr. Bennett said.
“We’re a fairly new school, and we were created with economic development in mind,” she said. “To do that, we have to work across boundaries, bring people together across fields, and be able to reimagine the work you do every day. That can be challenging, but I think it was our partnership with Crane that helped us reimagine that.”
- Mr. Hasler (Purdue) opened his presentation by laying out the step-by-step process by which things are invented. That is:
Money Comes In -> Research -> Invention -> Protection -> Actualization -> Social Impact -> Reward
Sounds simple enough, right? Well, no. In order for that process to flow quickly and productively, there has to be cooperation and collaboration with both the government and industrial sectors. Hasler believes that the more innovative minds collide, the more progress there will be. But he also pointed out that such collision is much more difficult in a place like Indiana than, say, Silicon Valley.
“It’s about creating that collision. It’s about just being there,” Hasler said. “It’s about artificially creating these opportunities for collisions to happen.
“I plead that this not be a one-time, feel-good thing. I want to come back here and do this for years to come.”
- Dr. Wheeler of Indiana University focused his presentation on CyberSecurity and the importance of educating the industrial sector on the issue. He noted that IU has five different collaborations with Crane, and most recently a collaboration on CyberSecurity.
“Stuff will happen,” Dr. Wheeler said simply, warning about the dangers of the cyber world.
Dr. Wheeler said too many people believe that collaboration is a difficult to accomplish and dread the thought of it. But collaboration really isn’t hard at all, he said.
“Personal connections are the beginning of collaboration,” Dr. Wheeler said. “We’ve got to get beyond the conversation of, ‘How do we go from first to second gear?’ We should be asking ourselves, ‘Why aren’t we in fourth gear? What’s holding us back?'”
Dr. Wheeler concluded the panel by discussing the significance of keeping students that attend college in Indiana in the state once they graduate. The panel agreed that too many talented graduates are departing for jobs elsewhere.
“We have to compete for them,” Dr. Wheeler said. “We are not disadvantaged to these other places, other than perception. We have to change that.”