The Northeast Tech Bridge in Newport, a division of the Naval Underwater Warfare Center (NUWC), hosted its first demo day to introduce the Navy audience to new undersea technologies from local startups.
The event, which includes seven companies, technology demonstrations and information sessions, took place in September. 1 Testing facility at Narragansett Bay. Ron Vien, Technical Director of the Newport Division, welcomed the attendees.
“We’re looking for small businesses to come up with new ideas, and we learn more about the industry at these events,” Wien said. “We hope to connect Newport engineers and scientists in the NUWC division with industry partners to find dual-use solutions to naval challenges.”
Several years ago, the Office of Naval Research (ONR) established a series of technical, commercial, and workforce programs to create an effective agile network across the Navy R&D organization and foster partnerships with government, academia, and industry partners. Tech Bridges are ONR-sponsored entities located around the world that bring together innovative organizations to accelerate outcomes and solutions for the Navy—one way they do this is by increasing local access to the innovation ecosystem.
The Northeast Science and Technology Bridge is the government side of the Science and Technology Bridge, with areas of focus including undersea vehicles and undersea sensors. The goal of the Northeast Science Bridge is to connect government, industry and academia to help advance ideas, projects and technologies through innovation channels. Northeast Tech Bridge has partnered with 401 Tech Bridge, a division of the University of Rhode Island (URI) Research Foundation, as a partner in making this happen.
PhD. Northeast Tech Bridge director Steven Bordonaro organized the demo day, inviting several local startups to demonstrate their technology at the Navy Range in front of an audience of Newport Division engineers and scientists.
“There are barriers to entry when it comes to working with the Navy, and there are a lot of things in the business world that we need to be involved in,” Bodonaro said. “We want to continue to reduce these barriers and continue to make it easier for companies to work with the Navy. The Blue Tech Accelerator Program can help companies that are just starting out—it also helps them connect with industry partners.”
“Dual-use applications are very important to us,” said Christian Cowan, who represents 401 Tech Bridge and the URI Research Foundation. “The 401 Tech Bridge can help with people, places and programming. Rhode Island has an incredible blue economy program, and NUWC Division Newport is a great partner for its assets and people. It’s great for the state and the nation benefit.”
Demo day held on the waterfront of the Rapid Engineering Laboratory Facility [REEF] Cowan said the 401 Tech Bridge is an example of how the 401 Tech Bridge is enabling non-traditional industry-based companies to work with NUWC Division Newport to accelerate this technology, benefit the Navy, and facilitate the private commercialization of these technologies.
A team from Boston Engineering in Waltham, Massachusetts, demonstrated two vertical profilers—one in a tube on the deck and one in the bay. Both profilers provide vertical water column profiles, carry standard or user-specified payloads, can be customized for a large number of payloads, collect data, and then transmit them in a variety of ways. On demo day, the team used satellite communications.
“We hope Demo Day is to showcase ourselves and the technology to the team at NUWC and learn more about the incredible capabilities NUWC has to offer,” said David Shane of Boston Engineering. Say. “We are already working with NUWC and would like to be more involved in collaboratively addressing the Navy problem set.”
Darya Bluut of Bristol, Rhode Island-based Deep Blue Composites shares her company’s line of deep-sea pressure shells designed to replace the titanium pressure shells currently used in Unmanned Underwater Vehicles (UUVs). Deep Blue Composites products reduce weight by using cost-effective all-composite options, making them more accessible to UUV manufacturers.
“I hope to increase awareness of composite materials and their use in the Navy and Department of Defense environment,” said Braut. “I think they’re really underutilized, especially in the underwater vehicle space, because they’ve only recently been adopted by the Navy and other defense sectors.”
The Jaia Robotics team, also based in Bristol, dropped two of their JaiaBot tiny autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) into the water to complete a diving simulation. JaiaBots can collect Sound Velocity Profiles (SVP), Bathymetry and Bathymetry while being able to travel extremely fast on the water surface.
Jaia Robotics engineer Jessie Paskoski said the company hopes to reach out to future collaborators, demonstrate the capabilities of their employees and robots, and then spend some time on the water.
Juice Robotics, based in Middletown, Rhode Island, demonstrated its fiber optic reel system, or FOReel, created in partnership with Nautilus Defense and URI. The system features a lightweight fiber optic fishing line, a commercial mechanical reel, and a camera and lighting system that allows users to see a live view of the bottom of Narragansett Bay.
Juice Robotics was founded by Matt Jewell, who later collaborated with Christine deSilva after URI’s film for Shark Week. Their goal is to create a vehicle that can travel at high speeds and “get people’s attention.”
“We realized that the future of deep-sea research and deep-sea exploration is where the real access to ocean data is using these smaller, modular, lighter and more affordable components,” deSilva said. “So what we’re doing at Juice is really bringing that passion together.”
PhD. Kevin Rosa founded Current Lab, a Newport-based ocean current forecasting company that works primarily with the regatta industry to help them find the fastest routes across racetracks.
“When you plan your mission, we can provide predictions about what the ocean currents will do and what the speed of sound will do,” Rosa said. “We do this using highly detailed computer models similar to weather models, but instead of predicting wind and rain, we predict currents and temperatures underwater. I hope to collaborate with NUWC divisions Newport and Naval World People talk to understand what their needs are and what we might offer them in the future.”
Will Magruder, Senior Director of Partnerships at Mass Challenge, the global nonprofit zero-equity accelerator program, joined Linda Larson and the 401 Tech Bridge team to help bring together Demo Day attendees.
“For today’s event, the Mass Challenge has been an industry-agnostic accelerator program, and we partnered with 401 Tech Bridge and Northeast Tech Bridge to highlight high-potential companies in blue tech,” Magruder said. “As part of today’s event in Newport, we are excited to showcase some of the best companies in the Volkswagen Challenge program.”
Dillon Fournier, Range Manager for Newport Naval Range Engineering and Analysis, led the logistics and range support for the event.
“The Narragansett Bay Test Facility has all the support needed to host events such as Demo Days and ANTX, and can also support small test events for companies that need to test their underwater technologies,” Fournier said. “By working for the private sector and Collaborative R&D agreement, we are here to help mature technology.”
Mary Sylvia, head of the Newport Office of Technical Partnerships, answered questions from attendees about the various protocols that can work with Newport.
“This is the first of many events that we will be hosting in the coming months and even years,” Sylvia said. “It’s a great opportunity for small businesses to come into our doors and show us the technology they have.”
Tech Bridge will continue to support efforts across New England in the Blue Tech region and will continue to provide technology scouting for Division Newport engineers and scientists interested in learning more about technology in the industry. Tech Bridge will also continue to work with the URI Research Foundation.
“We want to continue to have events like this. They’re at a scale where I think conversations are very natural, and having these fairly small events multiple times a year is an effective way to work with companies, especially smaller ones,” Bordonaro said. “Some big companies can ride the big stuff where a small company can get lost. If companies are interested, there’s another cohort going on at the Mass Challenge and the 401 Tech Bridge in the Blue Tech district, so they can look into it.”
Ultimately, the first demo day achieved its goal of connecting the industry with the Newport branch workforce.
“The technology shown is correct,” Bodonaro said. “I’m excited to see the conversations that are taking place. I think there will be some results in the long term, whether it’s projects or collaborative research. We’ve planted some seeds that I think will last a long time.”
You can learn more about the startups participating in the demo day at:
NUWC Newport is the oldest war center in the country, dating back to the establishment of a naval torpedo station on Goat Island in Newport Harbor in 1869. Commanded by Captain. Chad Hennings, NUWC Newport has major divisions in West Palm Beach, FL and Andros Island in the Bahamas, as well as Seneca Lake and Fisher Island, NY, Leesburg, FL, and Connecticut The Dodge Pond has a testing facility.
Join our team! NUWC Division Newport is one of the 20 largest employers in Rhode Island with a diverse, well-trained, educated, and skilled workforce. We are always looking for engineers, scientists and other STEM professionals who want to be at the forefront of subsea research and development, as well as talented business, financial, logistics and other support specialists. Please contact NUWC Division Newport Recruiting at this site – https://www.navsea.navy.mil/Home/Warfare-Centers/NUWC-Newport/Career-Opportunities/ And follow us on LinkedIn @NUWC-Newport and Facebook @NUWCNewport.