AUSTIN, Texas — Pursuing innovative battery technology was the theme of this year’s xTech Innovation Combine, which was featured at the Advanced Technology Summit held at the University of Texas Austin campus July 21-22.
Brigadier General Edmond “Miles” Brown, commanding general of the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command, or DEVCOM, delivered opening remarks at the xTech Innovation Combine pitch competition. Six companies pitched their ideas to an open forum of attendees from government, industry and academia.
“DEVCOM is the Army’s largest [science and technology] organization, and we’re hungry for solutions wherever they come from. Technology is proliferating quickly, and our potential adversaries are watching us closely. We’ve learned that diversity and different perspectives are critical to getting the best solutions,” Brown said.
The winning companies, Galley Power LLC & UEC Electronics LLC and Storagenergy Technologies, received $25,000 each and an invitation to sign a memorandum of intent with the U.S. Army and complete a request for prototype project proposal.
“What was most impressive about the finalists was how they interacted with each other and developed collaborative relationships that will extend beyond the event. This was very impressive and truly the intent of the Advanced Technology Summit,” said Laurence Toomey, DEVCOM Ground Vehicle Systems Center branch chief – energy storage team, and one of the judges for the xTech Combine pitch event.
Army Futures Command (AFC) partnered with FedTech, a venture capital firm in Arlington, Virginia, and UT Austin to execute the ATS event. General John M. Murray, AFC commanding general, delivered opening remarks at the ATS.
“I spent the first six months of my command traveling and what impressed me was no matter what university I visited, no matter what industry I visited, no matter what innovation hub I visited – Boston, New York City, Orlando, Silicone Valley or here in Austin – innovation is going on all over this country that the Army has to take advantage of, which is the primary reason why AFC was stood up,” Murray said.
The 2021 xTech Innovation Combine was conducted by DEVCOM Ground Vehicle Systems Center (GVSC), DEVCOM Army Research Laboratory and the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology, and it featured speakers from the Army, Department of Energy, industry and academia. DEVCOM is a major subordinate command of AFC.
Out of 44 white papers received from 42 companies at the beginning of the competition, more than 40 percent of the participants had never worked with the Department of Defense. The problem statements focused on electrification and advanced energy storage, specifically technologies for battery monitoring and management and safe, printable, conformal batteries.
The xTech program provides access to a spectrum of world-class technologies developed commercially that may benefit the DoD by holding competitions. Companies benefit from the competition by receiving Army feedback on proposals, mentorship, networking opportunities and education to grow their businesses and ultimately mature and transition technologies to the DoD.
During the two-day event, attendees toured various facilities at the UT Austin campus, including the Texas Materials Institute Electron Microscopy Facility, which opened in 2020, and the Battery Labs where commercial-scale batteries are assembled, tested and evaluated in battlefield scenarios that Soldiers may experience. Attendees participated in a panel with Army leadership and other users who discussed issues in energy storage and electrification. The audience, which consisted of Innovation Combine applicants, students, industry and startups, interacted with the panel in an open discussion.
The 2020 Innovation Combine awarded $300,000 in contracts to two small businesses for their work in power and energy solutions and novel materials for weight reduction and survivability. Two prototypes for cobalt-free, high energy semi-solid batteries that will have a longer life and be less costly to produce will be delivered in September 2021, and a rear ramp door prototype for the Stryker vehicle that is 50 percent lighter and improves survivability will be delivered in January 2022.
The first Innovation Combine was proposed to be part of 2020 AUSA Austin, but became virtual when AUSA was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic. The idea was adopted from the 2019 DEVCOM GVSC “flash-to-bang” concept, which highlights gaining access to state-of-the-art technologies from non-traditional vendors, lowering the barrier of entry for industry and delivering capabilities at the speed of relevance.
The U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command, known as DEVCOM, is the Army's technology leader and largest technology developer. DEVCOM ensures the dominance of Army capabilities by creating, integrating and delivering technology-enabled solutions to our Soldiers.