San Diego named as one of the nation’s first Naval innovation incubators

Sep 05, 2019 - Nickie Peña

If you’ve been following the San Diego: Life. Changing. campaign for a while now, you’re well-aware that San Diego is home to more than just beaches and award-winning craft beer and cuisine. But did you know our 4,562 square-mile region also has the largest concentration of military assets in the world? The local defense industry brings in more than $26 million in direct spending and is responsible for approximately 22 percent of all jobs in the region.

With such a significant economic impact and contribution to the region by both military and defense, it should come to no one’s surprise that San Diego was recently selected by the Department of the Navy and NavalX, as one of five U.S. locations to soon house a new innovation incubator model – cleverly dubbed ‘Tech Bridges.’

During planning stages, the NavalX team spent several months looking at regions across the U.S. that had both the necessary internal ecosystem to support greater innovation among the Department of the Navy as well as strong outside partners – think: academia, state/regional governments, and local privately held companies – residing in each location. San Diego was able to check multiple boxes here, and more importantly, have the foundation in place to connect emerging startups with the Department of the Navy. The additional cities selected to carry out their own form of this innovation platform include Newport, RI; Keyport, WA; Orlando, FL; and Crane, IN.

As the SoCal Tech Bridge becomes fully operational and a location is selected, the platform will run on a franchise model, allowing San Diego’s diverse innovation ecosystems to fully shine. The goal is to focus on connecting ‘non-traditional partners’ to enhance collaboration, in order to meet the growing needs of our region’s Navy and Marine Corps. In other words, it’s about to get easier for defense contractors and growing startups to access resources from the Department of the Navy, made possible by the Tech Bridge.

James Geurts, Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development, and Acquisition says, “Earlier this year, the Naval Expeditions (NavalX) office stood up to facilitate rapid adoption of proven agility-enhancing methods across the Department. And today, I’m proud to announce that NavalX, in collaboration with our workforce, has furthered this effort by creating the first five regional “Tech Bridges” across the country to better connect the DON and the private sector. These five spaces will lower barriers that traditionally hamper external collaboration.”

Based on research conducted by EDC’s research team in 2018, about 5,600 defense contractors collectively employ more than 62,000 people in San Diego. Plus, defense contractor jobs have grown 6.3% over the last three years, and are expected to grow another 9.3% over the next year. The future is bright for defense-related jobs in San Diego, and the addition of SoCal Tech Bridge places it on a path to continue fueling innovation and new technologies.


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