DOD opens new Innovation OnRamp Hubs across 5 states

DefenseScoop was briefed on the new DIU-led pursuit.
OnRamp launch event (NSIN photo)

The Pentagon is in the midst of launching five new Defense Innovation OnRamp Hubs where startups, academia, industry and others in specific regions around the U.S. can more strategically engage and directly connect with department officials to commercialize in-demand, dual-use technologies that are also being prioritized in their local areas. 

A program office within the Defense Innovation Unit, the National Security Innovation Network (NSIN), officially unveiled the latest of those hubs in Seattle Jan. 21. Two other sites in Kansas and Ohio hosted launch events in mid-December, and locations in Arizona and Hawaii are each set to celebrate their openings within the next few months.

“The OnRamp Hub program was developed to streamline collaboration between industry, academia and defense operations to get the needed technologies, information and products in the hands of those who need it most. We are extremely excited to work with these locations to bring this opportunity to their innovation ecosystem,” NSIN’s Acting Defense Innovation OnRamp Hub Program Director Cassie Muffley told DefenseScoop this week.

Each of these new centers “will execute three primary functions to lower the barrier to entry” for working with the Defense Department, Muffley explained. They include:

  • Offering a physical location that serves as an off-base, easily accessible “front door” for new people, ideas, and technologies from academia and industry to connect to multiple facets of the DOD.
  • Providing DOD entities from multiple services with a means to better coordinate activities and outreach into specific geographic regions.
  • Providing access to a physical and digital space for DOD “intrapreneurs” to meet, collaborate and innovate.

The overarching idea is that these sort of one-stop shops will help the Pentagon better leverage startups and academic communities for new concept development, and facilitate the creation of new, dual-use ventures by commercializing DOD lab technology and through customer discovery activities.

They’re also meant to make it easier for interested entrepreneurs to learn how to break into the defense industrial base, and get Pentagon insiders more acclimated in various domestic tech hotspots. 

“By changing the way that small and medium-sized technology companies work with the DOD, we can grow our technological edge that our service branches need to stay competitive and deter conflict,” Muffley said.

To ultimately select these five locations, DIU and NSIN officials assessed a number of factors about different areas, including the robustness of the defense innovation ecosystem; relevance of the innovation ecosystem to DOD needs; health of the innovation ecosystem; expressed demand signal from the innovation ecosystem; existence of similar facilities within key geographic areas; and expressed demand from the Pentagon.


“Each OnRamp Hub will deliver tailored opportunities, programming, and activities, based on their local needs and opportunities to leverage and partner with other activities,” Muffley told DefenseScoop.

As an example, NSIN — in partnership with the Washington Air National Guard (WA ANG), 194 Communications Flight — is preparing to lead an upcoming pitch event and demonstration to identify emerging technologies that could be used to establish two-way communication during an eruption of Mt. Rainier or other natural disasters.

“Participating in NSIN programming through OnRamp Hub: Washington assists innovators in navigating the process of gaining government contracts,” Muffley also noted.

All of the hubs will also provide education related to doing business with the DOD — on topics such as specialized funding options, determining and filing for the correct business classifications, and complex policy compliance. 

“We support the warfighter in gaining a competitive advantage when dealing with 21st century conflicts. This is an amazing opportunity for local entities to engage in national and international efforts that truly make a difference,” Muffley said.

Brandi Vincent

Written by Brandi Vincent

Brandi Vincent is DefenseScoop's Pentagon correspondent. She reports on emerging and disruptive technologies, and associated policies, impacting the Defense Department and its personnel. Prior to joining Scoop News Group, Brandi produced a long-form documentary and worked as a journalist at Nextgov, Snapchat and NBC Network. She was named a 2021 Paul Miller Washington Fellow by the National Press Foundation and was awarded SIIA’s 2020 Jesse H. Neal Award for Best News Coverage. Brandi grew up in Louisiana and received a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Maryland.

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