By Leigh Thomas | January 31, 2020
The University of South Carolina College of Engineering and Computing has been instrumental in bringing U.S. Naval initiatives to the state as a way to boost research and innovation.
The Navy established the Palmetto Tech Bridge through the Naval Information Warfare Center (NIWC) Atlantic in Charleston in December, to enable an innovation ecosystem of technology partnerships among the government, academia and industry.
The Tech Bridge will facilitate innovative approaches to problem solving and technology challenges identified by naval warfighters. The College of Engineering and Computing will participate in efforts to speed these initiatives, positively impacting the state and offering potential workforce opportunities.
The program will connect the Department of the Navy, including the Marine Corps, and the private sector with the dual purpose of meeting national defense needs by capitalizing on the research strengths of academia and innovation found in startups, small businesses and traditional companies, while contributing to the state’s economy.
“The concept of a tech bridge is quite timely in the arc of activities undertaken between the state and our college, which continues to place this flagship campus at the center of creation and translation of knowledge and workforce that benefits the industry and citizens of South Carolina,” Dean Hossein Haj-Hariri says. “The recent announcement of the alliance with Fraunhofer USA, centered on rapid innovation, is also well-aligned with the focus of the Tech Bridge, and will help each activity leverage the other.”
While the Palmetto Tech Bridge is just being defined, its initial focus will be innovation in the areas of naval communication, autonomous systems and cyber security.
“There is a real focus on innovation and entrepreneurship,” Associate Dean for Research Paul Ziehl says. “The college specifically can use its research capabilities for simulation and prototyping in collaboration with private companies for rapid development and implementation.”
Projects stemming from the Tech Bridge will have an impact not only on Naval innovation but also workforce development and education.
“The Navy will need a trained workforce to support these projects. The college already has a longstanding relationship with the Navy, with many of our students involved with the Office of Naval Research and NIWC Atlantic. We anticipate the Tech Bridge will open new doors for their involvement and ultimately develop more avenues for their future employment,” says Michael Matthews, senior associate dean for research and graduate education.
The Tech Bridge, coordinated by NIWC Atlantic, will connect, reinforce and sustain an acceleration ecosystem across South Carolina. It is the sixth tech bridge established under the Naval Expeditions Agility Office (NavalX) since September. Others are in California, Florida, Indiana, Rhode Island and Washington.
“The Tech Bridge will bring our state’s thought leaders together to learn about the needs of the Navy and identify a path to rapidly get the research and solutions developed in the college into service,” Ziehl says.
Development of the Tech Bridge began in February 2019 when the college invited Richard Carlin, who serves as the naval accelerator, and Julie Christodoulou, director of naval research materials at the Office of Naval Research, to present the new tech bridge concept to faculty and students. That presentation led to a meeting among representatives from the College of Engineering and Computing, Office of Naval Research, NIWC Atlantic, NavalX, Before Morning Nautical Twilight, Savannah River National Laboratory, IBM, Boeing, South Carolina Research Authority, and technical colleges, including Trident Technical College and Horry-Georgetown Technical College.