DOD adds a third DIUx innovation unit in Austin, Texas

The new location joins the effort to involve industry, academia and start-ups in developing cutting-edge security and other technologies.

Defense Secretary Ash Carter, looking to make innovation in military-related technologies a growth industry, is expanding the Defense Innovation Unit Experimental, or DIUx, into Texas, with the opening of a new facility in Austin.

DIUx is the Defense Department’s effort to get involved with the development of cutting-edge technologies by work with innovators in industry and academia, including non-traditional partners such as start-ups or individuals. Carter unveiled the program in August 2015 with the opening of a Pentagon outpost in the Silicon Valley, later announcing that flexible electronics would be a key focus, led by the FlexTech Alliance, a 162-member consortium of industry, academia and non-profits.

The project did have some doubters, including some members in Congress who complained earlier this year in the National Defense Authorization Act about focusing the effort on one geographic area. DOD, however, already was planning to establish other offices, including the “East Code node” (as Carter called it) in Boston, which opened in July, NDAA cyber updateand in Austin. Seattle and Cincinnati also have been mentioned as possible locations.

Austin is home to the University of Texas, which has a long history of working with DOD on technology-related projects and even has an established Department of Defense Contracts. But working with established partners is only one facet of DIUx. “In order for the DOD to move at the speed of business and work with the companies out here we have to be faster, more flexible, and collaborative …  to work with startups that aren’t used to working with us,” Lauren Schmidt, pathways director for DIUx, said at the Austin unveiling