|Chapter IV innovation update
One of the organizations in the Gulf Coast region that focuses on innovation was
innovative itself last year when it went through a rebranding. The Doolittle Institute
changed its name to DEFENSEWERX.
But the mission of the center in Fort Walton Beach, Fla., is still the same: create an
environment where the military can work directly with companies and individuals to
come up with solutions - while avoiding the red tape and long processes that are the
The Doolittle Institute, established in 2012, is a non-profit technology transfer
operation named in honor of Jimmy Doolittle of World War II fame.
It worked with the Air Force Research Laboratory Munitions Directorate at Eglin Air
Force Base, Fla., to come up with innovative solutions to issues facing the military. It
has a second operation, SOFWERX, in Tampa that works with the U.S. Special
Operations Command at MacDill Air Force Base.
DEFENSEWERX is just one of the research and applied technology operations
spread across the Gulf Coast Interstate 10 region. Government, university and
businesses are involved in research in a host of fields, including aerospace-related
fields that include engineering/design, artificial intelligence, warhead technologies,
guidance systems, rocket propulsion, unmanned vehicles, remote sensing and more.
Science and engineering are essential pathways to prosperity, according to the
National Science Foundation. Research and development leads to new products and
businesses, and the United States remains a world leader.
Along the Gulf Coast there are multiple hot spots for federal, university, and
corporate research, development, test and evaluation. The two biggest are NASA’s
Stennis Space Center in Mississippi and Eglin in Northwest Florida. Both actively
seek partnerships with private companies, including start-ups, and have ongoing
SBIR/STTR programs for small businesses.
The region’s universities are also heavily involved in R&D and technology transfer.
The University of Southern Mississippi has a reputation for advanced materials
research, while the University of West Florida has made a name for itself in
One of the high-profile research operations in the region is the Institute for Human
and Machine Cognition in Pensacola, which focuses on robotics, artificial intelligence
and improving machine-human interaction.
IHMC has made a big splash on the international scene, where its work in robotics
has won awards during competition against some of the best robotics institutions in
Scientists associated with IHMC, most recently Peter Pirolli, have been chosen as
National Academy of Inventors Fellows.
Entrepreneurs also play a big role in innovation, and there are strong indications
their numbers in this region are increasing.
Both Pensacola and New Orleans hold annual conferences that focus on
entrepreneurs and linking them up with businesses. The New Orleans Entrepreneur
Week, or NOEW, is held every year, with the most recent one held in March.
Pensacola for several years now has hosted EntreCon, a two-day event. The next
one is scheduled for November 2018.
- Gulf Coast Reporters League, June 2018