To better leverage the wealth of talent and technology in the Midwest, the Defense Innovation Unit is enthused to add Chicago to its offices nationwide. The Chicago office aims to identify new solutions, companies, and talent across the Midwest to solve pressing national security challenges and offer companies a faster path to Department of Defense (DoD) contracts. DIU celebrated this announcement in Chicago today with Senators Durbin and Duckworth, Governor Pritzker, Mayor Lightfoot and 80 other local military, academic and industry leaders.
The DIU office will be co-located at the Discovery Partners Institute (DPI) and serve as the focal point for DoD engagement with Midwest entrepreneurs and innovators. DIU will share the space with representatives from the National Security Innovation Network, the Army’s 75th Innovation Command, the Army Research Laboratory, members of the Illinois National Guard, and other DoD innovation groups.
“American innovators are crucial to increasing the strength and resiliency of our supply lines and leveraging the creativity and productivity of the American workforce,” said Dr. Kathleen Hicks, Deputy Secretary of Defense. “Today’s expansion of DIU will help to tap into talent and technology in the Midwest, and add a diverse resource to our innovation and modernization capabilities base.”
Commercial technology is increasingly important in equipping our military with the best technology in areas like artificial intelligence, autonomy, cyber, energy and space. Technology from commercial vendors can often scale in months—shaving many years off of the defense acquisition cycle. For example, five years ago, DIU began working with commercial vendors of a new technology—synthetic aperture radar (SAR) satellites—which can see through clouds and at night. This new capability is providing unclassified, shareable information on what is happening in Ukraine and has proven key to the country’s defense.
Chicago will be the fifth DIU office located in technology ecosystems that include– Mountain View, CA; Boston, MA; Austin, TX; and Washington, DC. Chicago is part of DIU’s broader regional strategy to extend DoD’s reach as a customer and economic development partner to companies, labs, accelerators, academia, and investors across the country. In turn, DoD aims to discover emerging technology solutions faster, speed their adoption, and expand the base of suppliers supporting our military.
“On behalf of Chicago’s business community, we welcome the Department of Defense,” said Michael Fassnacht, President & CEO, World Business Chicago, Chief Marketing Officer, City of Chicago. “In opening your Midwest regional office in Chicago, you can easily tap into our global reach and influence, as well, the city’s network of diverse, innovative, and forward-thinking companies that are developing, and incubating, the solutions needed to support our nation’s defense today and in the future.”
Since launching the Commercial Solutions Opening in 2016, DIU has made prototype awards to more than 263 companies across 30 states, Washington, DC, and 9 countries. DIU has introduced more than 100 new companies to the DoD and transitioned 43 commercial technologies to DoD partners. To reach companies and talent across the 12 states that makeup DIU’s Midwest region, DIU will leverage a full- and part-time reservist team as well as government partners.
“DIU is excited to add Chicago to deepen the DoD’s reach to identify new solutions, companies, and talent to solve our national security challenges,” said Michael Brown, DIU director. “Leveraging the innovation of entrepreneurs across the Midwest will enable DIU to provide new capabilities to our Service members.”
In addition to the morning’s in-person event hosted at local manufacturing innovation partner MxD, DIU is hosting a virtual Regional Roadshow the afternoon of April 21st for companies and organizations across the Midwest who may be interested in doing business with the DoD. This conversation will provide a short overview about DIU and NSIN, our focus areas, processes and how we work to lower the barriers to entry to the DoD.