Austin picked to be a Department of Defense innovation hub

The goal is to build bridges between the Pentagon and Austin's tech community.

Posted September 14th, 2016

The Defense Department is opening an office in Austin to establish a tech foothold here and scout for startups to invest in.

Defense Secretary Ash Carter made the announcement on Wednesday at Austin technology incubator Capital Factory, where the program will be located.

The effort, called the Defense Innovation Unit Experimental, or DIUx, is intended to build bridges between the Pentagon and the U.S. tech community, and bolster the department's technological prowess.

The Pentagon currently has DIUx offices in Silicon Valley and Boston. This initiative was started last year. 

 "I created DIUx last year because one of my core goals as secretary of defense has been to build, and in some cases rebuild, the bridges between our national security endeavor at the Pentagon and America's wonderfully innovating and open technology community," Carter said in a statement.

In March, Carter visited Capital Factory and the University of Texas campus, and said the visit was part of a quest to have more people in the tech industry work on defense projects or directly for the department.

"Austin's commitment to innovation, access to talent and academia, as well as the department's longstanding ties to Texas make an ideal next location for DIUx," he said.

The new DIUx will occupy space at Capital Factory, located downtown on Brazos Street. It will be led by Christy Abizaid, who previously served as deputy assistant secretary of defense for Afghanistan, Pakistan and Central Asia, and on the National Security Council staff.

The rest of the staff will consist of local reservists and National Guard members already working within Austin's tech community.

"That Secretary Carter picked Austin as the third location for a defense startup speaks volumes about our role as a tech leader," Mayor Steve Adler said in a statement. "As proud as I am for what this says about Austin's role as a hub for innovation, I'm even prouder that our city will play a role in protecting our country in the future."

DIUx will seek innovative technology through three teams: 

- A venture team will identify emerging commercial technologies and explore their potential impact on the battlefield. 

- A foundry team will identify technology that isn't fully developed or requires significant adaptation for military applications.

-An engagement team will introduce technologists to military problems and the military to entrepreneurs who can help find solutions.

"This Austin presence will introduce us to even more innovators looking to help America's warfighters," Abizaid said. "The entrepreneurs in this area, including many veterans, are working on cutting-edge technology that could benefit our troops. We want to make it easier for them to do business with the DoD."