The Advanced Technology Summit, powered by Army Futures Command, took place at the University of Texas at Austin’s Engineering Education and Research Center from July 21 to 22.
Defense and tech industry influencers ranging from academics to engineers to scientists convened at the two-day conference to learn more about promising cross-sector initiatives and nascent technologies that could significantly modernize military operations, including how Soldiers power critical equipment used on the battlefield.
The event featured expert speakers and panelists from the U.S. Army, the U.S. Department of Energy, the University of Texas and numerous research laboratories, tech startups and innovation incubators, and sought to specifically explore recent technological breakthroughs in advanced energy storage and electrification.
Gen. John M. Murray of Army Futures Command, who served as a keynote speaker at the event, emphasized that officials from across the U.S. Government are “capitalizing on the creative and innovative thought that goes on in this country each and every day.” Addressing members of the audience, he added that “you can help force us to think differently about how to solve problems.”
Murray shared that his own Army background working with mechanized forces helped inform his understanding of the pressing need for more agile energy solutions. “Think large, heavy vehicles,” he explained. “For most of my career, we have dragged around at least several thousand gallons of fuel just to get us through the day.”
“Think of the number of Soldiers that we lost in Iraq and Afghanistan transporting fuel up and down highways,” he added. “If we can get those kids off the road and become less dependent upon fossil fuel, it’s not only good for the country, it’s good for the United States Army, and it’s good for our Soldiers.”
In keeping with the Army’s purposeful pursuit of advanced technology, the focal point of the summit was the xTech Innovation Combine on Advanced Energy Storage. The Innovation Combine, which launched in April 2021, is a recurring, Army-sponsored competition that aims to accelerate the integration of technology prototypes for crucial Army capability gaps into military platforms.
Six Innovation Combine finalists presented their projects during the summit, demonstrating new potential paths forward for improving the durability, performance, safety and transportability of batteries, which the Army relies on heavily for operating and charging communications equipment, weapons systems and tactical vehicles.
The competition awarded two $25,000 grand prizes and Army memoranda of agreements to Galley Power LLC/ UEC Electronics and Storagenergy Technologies, Inc. for their work in technologies for battery monitoring and management and safe, printable, conformable batteries, respectively. The remaining finalists received $10,000 each to continue their novel work in the field of next-generation battery technology.
Commanding General of the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Brig. Gen. Edmond “Miles” Brown noted that approximately 40 percent of the white papers initially submitted to the Innovation Combine represented first-time efforts toward working with the U.S. Department of Defense. He stressed the importance of expanding the size and profile of Army partnerships to ensure adoption of only the best capabilities: “Diversity and different perspectives are critical.”
Beyond the competition, the summit fostered innovation and collaboration through presentations and panel discussions on next-generation Army vehicles, the future of energy technology and the process of moving ideas and inventions from the laboratory stage to a commercialization phase, including by enhancing connections between small businesses and “Big Army.”
Summit participants also had the opportunity to tour the university’s Texas Materials Institute and Battery Lab, where cutting-edge energy research is taking place.
The summit additionally highlighted the important and ongoing partnership between the Army and the University of Texas, among other modernization-focused partners.