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  • Phoning in the Innovation
    Posted by Bettina Chavanne 9:12 PM on Oct 15, 2009

    "Phoning it in" implies you didn't make the effort. Unless, of course, you're phoning it in to the Office of Naval Research's TechSolutions. The rapid-response technology development program produces prototypes in response to problems "phoned in" by the fleet.

    Master Chief Stephen French, TechSolutions program manager, talks about how the program works.

    Generally, requests come in from all ranks and grades, although the target audience is from E-4 through E-9 and young officers, French says. The request is evaluated and analyzed by TechSolutions with the help of the person who made the inquiry and then passed up to the Naval Research Enterprise labs, the University-Affiliated Research Centers (UARCs) and some of the national labs.

    Researchers provide solutions - which the submitter of the request can chime in on - and a candidate is selected. A formal proposal is requested, received and reviewed. And then funding is provided. The goal is go from original request to solution is about 14 months.

    French says TechSolutions was created in 2002 as a rapid response program to answer requests coming in from Afghanistan and Iraq. Originally, the program was unfunded. TechSolutions has grown to funding 10-14 projects per fiscal year and "the ability to respond to a request at any time," says French.

    French listed some of TechSolutions' greatest achievements. The Infantry Immersion Trainer (IIT), developed by Lockheed Martin, headed his list. Lockheed adapted the IIT into a helicopter-control officer trainer as well -- another TechSolutions project. I blogged about that program a month or so ago. The IIT came from a Marine Corps request for a realistic simulation trainer similar to what pilots have.

    Next on his list is the Talon Robot Battery Adapter. The existing battery was a custom, $10,000 special purpose battery that required a $3,500 charger. It had only rudimentary health monitoring and didn't perform as desired. TechSolutions developed a new battery cradle and docking bay that houses four to six standard Marine radio batteries. In the end, TechSolutions reduced the cost of the battery by 60%, reduced battery replacement cost by 80% and saved the DOD $2 million per year.

    French says TechSolutions is the only program where fleet operators "can directly communicate with the science and technology community and the warfare centers about issues and get answers."

    Tags: ar99, ONR, TechSolutions

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