WASHINGTON – The U.S. Army’s xTech Program is broadening its reach to international science and technology innovators. The first outreach to international innovators, the xTechGlobal Artificial Intelligence Challenge, concluded in September 2021. It was successful in identifying critical solutions outside of xTech’s traditional U.S. landscape. A second international iteration is now underway.
xTECH GOES INTERNATIONAL
The U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Atlantic Technology Center, based in the United Kingdom, was the driving force behind the xTechGlobal AI Challenge. DEVCOM Atlantic’s mission is to identify and implement international technologies that meet Army and Department of Defense requirements.
“We’re out here to find the best technology that the world has to offer for our Soldiers and for our coalition partners,” said Tom Mulkern, DEVCOM Atlantic deputy director.
Mulkern and DEVCOM Atlantic technical director, Nathan Anderson, based the new challenge on the xTech model of a competition that awards S&T innovations from small and non-traditional businesses with cash prizes and potential follow-on contracts. They partnered with xTech to host xTechGlobal AI on a broad, international scale.
Since 80% of research and development investments are done outside of the U.S., the breadth of opportunity in the international S&T industry is vast. The three winners of xTechGlobal AI – MarshallAI (Finland), LatticeFlow (Switzerland) and Cyber Defence Service Ltd. (United Kingdom) – were announced at the Innovation Hub, Imperial College in London, and each demonstrated the importance of top tech solutions outside of national borders. While these winners haven’t made the full leap to operational readiness, xTech, DEVCOM Atlantic and their partnering agencies are hopeful for the future.
“With most technology, it takes time and resources to actually transition it to operational capability,” Anderson said. “The first step in that process is the Army and DoD gaining knowledge of what’s in the realm of possible and making personal connections with the innovators.”
INNOVATION FOR ARMY ALLIES
In addition to being xTech’s first international competition, xTechGlobal AI was a landmark event for the program because it involved partnering with allied defense innovation offices from the Air Force and Navy. This collaboration with the Army’s DoD colleagues underscored the importance of filling critical mission gaps with the joint services.
“It was natural to work with the Air Force and Navy because there’s overlap around the globe,” Mulkern said. “By having that close relationship, we can leverage intellectual resources, leverage their funding, and then ultimately leverage their networks across academia, industry, and back in the states to tap into their talent pools and knowledge base.”
DEVCOM Atlantic partnered with AFWERX, the Office of Naval Research Global, the UK Defence and Security Accelerator, the AI Task Force, Army Futures Command and Imperial College London to understand and implement AI solutions across the DoD as part of xTechGlobalAI.
NEXT UP FOR xTECH
With the success of the pilot competition, DEVCOM Atlantic believes the xTech model is a results-driven method for discovering international S&T innovations. Consequently, it is launching a second challenge with a new name: xTechInternational. This time, the competition will step outside of the AI focus area, and has opened up the floor to three critical fields that have dual use possibilities for the military as well as commercial industry: energy, water and synthetic biology.
Anderson notes that a broader range of topics will increase the quality of submissions from around the globe and draw expertise in a multitude of intellectual areas that can be applied to military readiness.
The submission period for xTechInternational opened in early March to international small and medium-sized businesses, and will close on April 15, 2022. For more information on the challenge’s topics, submission timeline, mentoring and prize money offered, visit the xTech website: www.xtechsearch.army.mil.
“The [xTech] model is a wonderful way to get the topics and requirements out to a broader audience,” Mulkern said. “It’s a novel approach to get the message out that, ‘Hey, the Army wants to work with you. The DoD wants to work with you, and we’re looking for novel solutions from any partners out there.’”
The Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology provides the American Soldier with a decisive advantage in any mission by developing, acquiring, fielding and sustaining the world's finest equipment and services, and by leveraging technologies and capabilities to meet current and future Army needs.