Innovation Warfare: Technology Domain Awareness and America’s Military Edge

On December 21, 2013, a small Japanese robotics start-up called Schaft claimed top honors at the DARPA Robotics Challenge. With minimal funding, team Schaft’s robot was the only performer to successfully complete all of the challenge events and beat robots built by companies like Boston Dynamics, who delivered a competing system through a $10.8 million contract from DARPA. In 2013, Google purchased Schaft and six other robotics companies as part of a new broad scale robotics initiative.

In May 2011, D-Wave Systems, a start-up spun out of the University of British Columbia, announced they had created the world’s first quantum computer. The current generation D-Wave Two is benchmarked to solve some computational problems 3,600 times faster than conventional computers. A complete D-Wave Two system can be purchased for $10-15 million.

At the 2014 International Manufacturing Technology Show in Chicago, Local Motors, a company that uses advanced manufacturing techniques and open collaboration to drive rapid product innovations, unveiled the world’s first 3-D printed vehicle. Over a 44-hour period on the floor of the trade show, Local Motors “printed” and assembled an entire vehicle, showing how direct digital manufacturing can quickly and cost effectively produce complex systems.

The genie is out of the bottle. Today, global commercial markets increasingly set the pace for advanced technology innovation. Enter Technology Domain Awareness (TDA) – a defense innovation concept that uses knowledge of the technology commons (i.e. the place where non-defense R&D intersects with defense applications) to incorporate the high tech outputs of the commercial marketplace. In the first of a series of three articles on this topic, we explored the underlying factors and goals of the TDA mission to develop a robust defense innovation base that cooperatively aligns the non-defense R&D marketplace with emerging defense capability needs. In this second article, we turn our attention to how TDA is accomplished.