Naval Surface Warfare Center, Crane Division is looking to help its scientists commercialize their technologies. The installation is partnering with The Mill in Bloomington and others to launch the PROPELS Accelerator, which is designed to provide entrepreneurs and small businesses the opportunity to bring patented government technology to market.
“We’ve noticed that over the years, we haven’t had a real strong connection with the local entrepreneur ecosystem,” said Jenna Dix, director of technology transfer at NSWC Crane. “Having the opportunity to work with The Mill…gives us a new community to talk to about Crane and Crane-developed technologies.”
In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, Dix said it’s sometimes difficult to translate what’s being done at Crane to the entrepreneurial community.
“We find in a lot of cases, we have a lot of really interesting technologies that we’ve developed, but maybe we’re not using them; they got to a certain point and then they sit on the shelf,” said Dix. “We need partners to help us actually get those products to a point where they can be bought back by the DoD and also sold in the commercial market.”
The accelerator was also developed in collaboration with strategic advisory firm Dioltas and the nonprofit Defense Entrepreneurs Forum.
The program will begin April 14 with a Tech Expo at The Mill in which Crane scientists will present their technologies and explain how they’re being used by the Navy. Some of the tech includes long-range heat detection, assistive devices for low-light emergency response, and drone tracking technology.
The participants in the PROPELS Accelerator will select one of the showcased technologies and work to develop a commercialization plan for a new product or platform over a six-week period.
“Our goal with that, really, is to either see current businesses use some of this really cutting-edge technology in a new way or to supplement the way the work that they’re doing, or potentially even spin up some new startup companies around this technology as well,” Andy Lehman, head of accelerator programming at The Mill, told IIB. “We’ll take them through our usual foundational entrepreneurial programming. They’ll get plugged in here with our network of mentors and entrepreneurs.”
Dix says working with entrepreneurs and small businesses is the “sweet spot” for Crane, particularly as part of Governor Eric Holcomb’s push for more innovation in the defense sector.
The Office of Naval Research provided funding for the program as a pilot. Dix says the accelerator has the potential to continue for years to come and expand beyond Crane to other Naval labs.
“This particular program is really the first of its kind,” she said. “I think the desire is that as we go into this tech demo and the accelerator program and then the Radius pitch competition, we’ll really start to see where things really work and what audiences we’re getting at because I think through this, we’re introducing a lot of new networks of people that we haven’t generally had a good line of communication with.”
The accelerator will run from May 4 through June 17 and culminate with the participants pitching their ideas and compete for prizes at the Radius Indiana Crane IP Defense Innovation competition.
You can learn more about the PROPELS Accelerator by clicking here.