31 janvier 2020 | International, Technologies propres, Méga données et intelligence artificielle, Fabrication avancée 4.0, Systèmes autonomes (Drones / E-VTOL), Conception et essais virtuels, Fabrication additive

Tech startups still face the Pentagon’s ‘valley of death’

Tech startups still face the Pentagon’s ‘valley of death’

By: Joe Gould

WASHINGTON ― Brooklyn-based technology startup goTenna launched in 2014 with a candy bar-sized gadget that pairs with smartphones to create off-grid, no-network communications.

Though it was originally a commercial product, the company has received millions of dollars' worth of government business since 2015, mostly with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security but also with Special Operations Command, the Air Force, the Navy and the Army. About 150,000 devices have shipped.

The Army has spent millions of dollars with goTenna, but the service cannot give the company one of the most important things for a small business ― the certainty of recurring revenue.

“Now the funding is out, and even the program officer for that program doesn't know where we go next within the Army,” goTenna founder and CEO Daniela Perdomo said at a Defense News-hosted roundtable in December. “That's in part why we've been spending more time, frankly, on civilian public safety. Because even though DHS is consistently [under funding restrictions], they seem to be moving. They seem to move faster.”

That sort of inconsistency and confusion is why tech startups dealing with the Pentagon, as well as investors, so dread the gap between their innovative product's development and the Pentagon's sluggish decisions to launch. That gap has a nickname: “the valley of death.”

The Pentagon has experimented with a variety of means to buy emerging technologies, an important goal as it seeks to preserve its edge against Russia and China. But one truism ― affirmed in a recent report from the Ronald Reagan Institute ― is that the federal government has been unable to fully adapt its practices to promote and harness private sector innovation, despite making strides.

Addressing the House Armed Services Committee on Jan. 15, former Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Michele Flournoy said the valley of death between a product's development and the moment that product becomes part of a program of record remains an obstacle. She said that's partly because acquisitions officials don't use the new authorities granted by Congress over recent years.

The excitement of receiving development money from the Department of Defense stands in stark contrast to what often follows.

“[Startups] win the prototype competition: ‘Great, we love you.' And that's in, like, FY19,” Flournoy said. “And then they are told, ‘OK, we are going to have [a request for proposals] for you in '21,' and [the startups] are like: ‘OK, but what do I do in '20? I have got a 10-year hole in my business plan, and my investors are pressuring me to drop the work on DoD because it's too slow, it's too small dollars.'”

How would Flournoy fix it? She advised the Pentagon to hire tech talent ― “smart buyers and developers and fielders of new technologies” ― and create a bridge fund for firms in competitive areas like artificial intelligence, cybersecurity and quantum computing. (The idea seemed to resonate with Texas Rep. Mac Thornberry, who is the panel's top Republican and the author of multiple acquisitions reform laws passed in recent years.)

At the Defense News roundtable, leaders from the tech community said not only has it been difficult for small businesses to enter an aerospace and defense market dominated by five major firms, but it's hard for startups to justify to investors that the government should be retained as a client when it is often the least decisive.

“I think the fundamental misunderstanding between the DoD and venture investors is just how difficult it is to keep the wheels on a fast-growing startup,” said Katherine Boyle of venture capital firm General Catalyst.

But the Pentagon is working to bridge the gap between prototype and production. Over the last year, the Defense Innovation Unit ― the department's outpost in Austin, Texas; Boston, Massachusetts; and California's Silicon Valley ― has launched two internal teams, for defense and commercial engagement, to envision these transitions and match them to the Pentagon's five-year budgeting process, according to DIU's director of strategic engagement, Mike Madsen.

These teams are tasked with learning the needs of the services, working with commercial industry to develop prototypes to meet those needs and then helping market the prototypes more broadly within the Defense Department. Along these lines, DIU helped a company that developed a predictive maintenance application for the Air Force ― Redwood City, California-based C3.ai ― win a predictive maintenance contract for Army ground vehicles. C3.ai has since created a federal arm unit.

A quarter of all prototypes awarded by DIU transitioned to programs of record, and another 50 percent are eligible for the transition. “It will take time for us to develop the right cultural instincts, but it's already happening,” said DIU's director of commercial engagement, Tom Foldesi.

Anduril Industries co-founder and Founders Fund partner Trae Stephens has often criticized the DoD's approach to Silicon Valley. But speaking at the Defense News panel, he acknowledged progress through DIU's ability to harness the flexible other transaction authority, a congressionally mandated contracting mechanism that makes it easier to prototype capabilities. He also praised the Air Force's effort to rework Small Business Innovation Research funds to target more mature technologies.

“I don't know who's responsible for banging the table about it over and over, but somebody is out there saying it," Stephens said. “It seems to be coming across in the messaging in some way.”


Sur le même sujet

  • Startup Genome - Budapest ecosystem

    29 juillet 2022

    Startup Genome - Budapest ecosystem

    Startup ecosystem development through data. We advise world leaders in policymaking, strategy and actions to drive innovation and economic growth.

  • Air Force’s Roper: 3D Printing ‘Going Like Gangbusters’

    19 mai 2020

    Air Force’s Roper: 3D Printing ‘Going Like Gangbusters’

    "I've been so passionate about bringing in additive manufacturing, and small batch digital manufacturing, to help on aircraft parts availability," Air Force acquisition head Will Roper says. By THERESA HITCHENSon May 15, 2020 at 12:54 PM WASHINGTON: The Air and Space Forces are speeding efforts to adopt 3D printing as a major pillar of force sustainment, now making critical spare parts for weapon systems such as engine components for fighters and rockets. “Additive and advanced manufacturing [has] been going like gangbusters across the Air Force and Space Force — printing thousands of parts for airplanes,” Air Force acquisition head Will Roper said yesterday. “We're starting to print parts for satellites, including propulsion.” And today, the Air Force Rapid Sustainability Office (RSO) announced that it had reached a first milestone in its collaboration with General Electric to 3D print metal engine parts for aircraft — printing a metal sump pump for F-110 engines used by both F-15 and F-16 fighter jets. According to the announcement, the next phase of the program — Phase 1B , now being planned — will involve a family of parts on the TF34 engine, which has been in service for more than 40 years. “The collaborative effort between the US Air Force and GE shows great promise toward the adoption of metal 3D printed parts as an option to solve the US Air Force's current and future sustainment challenges,” Col. Benjamin Boehm, director of propulsion at the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center (AFLCMC) said in a press release. “This capability provides an alternate method to source parts for legacy propulsion systems throughout their life cycle, especially when faced with a diminishing supplier base or when infrequent demands or low volume orders are not attractive to traditional manufacturers.” GE originally approached the Air Force with the idea of a collaboration on 3D printed parts in 2019, and in April this year the service brought in the Defense Logistics Agency to help certify the GE-made parts for airworthiness. ALCMC, as we reported way back in September at the Air Force Association shindig, has also been pushing to get its depots around the country certified to print their own spare parts, beginning with those not critical to life and death. Air Force leaders see additive manufacturing as key to resolving the service's serious problems in maintaining aging aircraft and infrastructure and lowering costs. That said, the new 3D sump pump cover is an important piece of the engine. “Compared to other parts on the F110 engine, the sump cover might have lower functionality, but is incredibly important. It needs to be durable, form a seal and it needs to work for the entire engine to function – which is of course critical on a single engine aircraft like the F-16,” said James Bonar, engineering manager at GE Additive. The RSO-GE program is using a spiral development model, increasing the complexity and scale of parts printing with each phase. “In this program, complexity involves moving from simpler part identification, progressing to part and family of parts consolidation and eventually tackling complex components and systems, such as common core heat exchangers,” the press release said. Roper told reporters yesterday in a Zoom briefing that due to the COVID-19 pandemic, RSO has transformed its planned Advanced Manufacturing Olympics, originally planned to coincide with the now-postponed Tokyo Summer Olympics in late July, to a virtual event to be held November. It will allow 3D printing companies to show off their wares to potential service customers via a number of challenges, including a “printer shoot-off” and a “Box of Parts” challenge where manufacturers will compete to create a drone part without a blueprint. “We have been growing our network of small batch makers across the Air Force and Space Force,” Roper said. “I've been so passionate about bringing in additive manufacturing, and small batch digital manufacturing, to help on aircraft parts availability.” The COVID-19 crises has proven the “additive” value of tapping into a network of small manufacturers as the Air Force has scrambled to obtain personal protective equipment for airmen at far-flung bases, he explained. Because many large producers of items like face masks are overwhelmed, the service set up the “Air Force Rapid Advanced Manufacturing Portal,” or “AFRAMP,” as a method of finding and vetting small producers to meet service needs. “It's a portal where small batch manufacturers can make their capabilities known — show what they're able to produce — we vet them, and that then allows these small companies in aggregate to add up to large batch manufacturing,” Roper said. “We've already delivered over 11,000, different PPE devices to seven air bases that wouldn't have otherwise been able to get access for personal protective gear.” His hope is to expand that portal to other types of advanced manufacturing in the future. “I'm excited about scaling it up beyond just personal protective gear, and really having it be a one-stop-shop in the government for companies that can make things in small quantity — that can't mass produce, but can produce in mass if they're added up with a lot of their other sister companies.” https://breakingdefense.com/2020/05/air-forces-roper-3d-printing-going-like-gangbusters/

  • BIND 4.0 | Call for proposal

    20 juillet 2022

    BIND 4.0 | Call for proposal

    The BIND 4.0 International Open Call for Startups to apply for the chance to put innovation into action with paid contracts with industry leaders, is now active and accepting applications! Who do we Work With? Young companies worldwide developing solutions that can be applied to the Intelligent Industry, Clean Energy & Sustainability, Health Tech and/or Food Tech sectors for our 65+ Corporate Partners based in the Basque Country, Spain. The technologies of interest are wide ranging and not limited to: AI, Cybersecurity, Big Data Analytics, IOT/IIOT, Smart Energy, AR/VR, Machine or Artificial Vision, Collaborative Robotics, Additive Manufacturing, Biobased Solutions, Clean Tech, New Materials, NanoTech, Medical Devices, Smart Sensors, etc. Why BIND 4.0 Open Innovation & Acceleration Program? It is a government sponsored initiative with 6 years of proven track record accelerating over 160 International Startups and catalyzing countless business opportunities. 45K Average Contract Amount 65+ Big Name Reference Clients High Impact Acceleration, Mentoring & Support Zero Equity Taken & No Fee to Participate Please Share our International Startup Open Call. If you'd like us to prepare something targeted to your newsletter or startup portfolio please let us know. Easily share our latest social media posts and upcoming Webinar events via the links below. Key Details and links: Startup Open Call, Accepting Applications Deadline Sep 8, 2022 BIND 4.0 Webinar Presentation with Alumni July 28, 2022 BIND 4.0 Webinar Presentation with Alumni Aug 30, 2022 BIND 4.0 2022 Program Catalogue 2022 Catalogue BIND 4.0 Website For More Resources www.BIND40.com HTML Email Open Call Announcement Link to Email Message LinkedIn Open Call Post BIND 4.0 2022 Open Call Twitter Open Call Publication BIND 4.0 2022 Open Call We Value Collaborative Partnerships. Remember, for our Collaborative Partners with relevant topics and programs, we offer event promotion via our alumni newsletter or social media, targeted startup referrals, plus networking via invitations to innovation events. Have Any Startup Recommendations? Send us a quick email with any Startups that you think could be a good fit for our immersion, acceleration and open innovation program. Send their contact info so we can reach out to them directly and fast track their application based on your referral. Startups can set up a 1:1 Meeting with us, or if you'd rather send them this Link to Apply, the application deadline is September 8th.

Toutes les nouvelles