Accelerated Solutions: Harnessing the Power of Partnerships

Accelerated Solutions: Harnessing the Power of Partnerships

Our innovation investments aid our solution development capabilities

11-07-2019
Jody Merritt
SPACE

Primarily known for systems engineering and technical assistance (SETA) and integration work, SAIC may have raised some eyebrows upon investing in startup accelerators.

SETA providers support government customers with analysis and engineering services in a consulting capacity. SAIC and select other companies in our industry have long succeeded by providing SETA services to the government but are now challenging that paradigm.

If the SETA model is familiar, comfortable, and successful, why mess with it?

Think of SAIC as a living, evolving, responsive being. SETA business has been a steady part of our diet for a long time. It has worked well. At the same time, we have expanded our palate to include delivering outcomes for government customers, and that is working, too.

Solution needs are changing

Our markets and our customers’ missions are evolving and getting more complex. Traditional, years-long capability development and acquisition are becoming less viable. Speed and agility are in, requiring changes to our diet.

Customers want to rapidly field new capabilities and transition them effectively into operations. They also want to prove out emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), and blockchain in support of their missions, while making progress on modernization and transformation efforts.

Our solutions power the outcomes we provide to our customers. The fuel for producing these solutions comes from innovative technologies and capabilities we develop on our own or consume from commercial sources.

SAIC continually looks for new and exciting sources of fuel to produce better solutions and outcomes faster for our customers’ missions. Startup accelerators and hungry emerging tech companies, working with AI and ML, are important parts of our new diet.

A 2015 Harvard Business Review article, by Ian Hathaway, describes it excellently: “Startup accelerators support early-stage, growth-driven companies through education, mentorship, and financing. Startups enter accelerators for a fixed period of time, and as part of a cohort of companies. The accelerator experience is a process of intense, rapid, and immersive education aimed at accelerating the life cycle of young, innovative companies, compressing years’ worth of learning-by-doing into just a few months.”

SAIC Innovation Factory concept

SAIC has several initiatives to increase involvement with innovative startups and accelerator programs. In these partnerships, we will apply our domain expertise and leverage emerging technologies to solve specific problems for our customers and deliver complex technical solutions quicker.

The initiatives involve:

  • The space-focused Techstars Starburst Space Accelerator
  • An office at Austin, Texas’ Capital Factory innovation hub
  • Our office in St. Louis’ T-REX geospatial tech hub
  • Catalyst Campus, a Colorado-based aerospace and defense innovation ecosystem
  • A strategic partnership with Franklin Venture Partners, providing exposure and investment opportunities in innovative startups

They form the innovation ecosystem providing technology reach-back in our Innovation Factory, which we launched to provide government customers rapid development and delivery of advanced technical solutions.

Space is a domain of growing importance by the day. The 2020 federal budget has outlays of $21 billion for NASA and $13.8 billion (a 17 percent increase) for DoD space programs.

 

Our Innovation Factory enables us to evolve in lockstep with government technology acquisition trends.

 

Applying it to space missions

With our support, the accelerators and the companies in them will apply emerging tech to solve the most complex challenges related to the nation’s space missions. SAIC will be deeply embedded in a partner ecosystem where emerging tech startups, universities, and venture capital intersect.

The partnerships will bring a mix of mission understanding, technology application, and integration expertise to vibrant and rapid-paced environments where solutions will be developed, delivered, and sustained in agile and dynamic fashion.

The recognition of the value of space has dramatically changed our perspective at SAIC, and we don’t intend to cede our position as a leader in the domain. We want to continue to bring the best technologies to address our customers’ challenges, and collaborating with startups as well as other leaders in the space ecosystem will help us do that.

Collectively, we are committed to serving U.S. and worldwide space customers’ needs and to laying the foundation for the future of both governmental and commercial space activities. Because the space ecosystem is relatively immature, it can benefit from focused thinking, dedicated mentor teams, and hungry startups all working together to flesh out the best technological and business approaches. The symbiotic partnership between government, integrator, developer, and startup allows all of that to happen rapidly.

 

FURTHER READING: Read the other ways that SAIC is broadening our innovation ecosystem.

T-REX Brings SAIC and National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency Closer Together

SAIC's Innovation Factory Is a Solutions Accelerator

SAIC Invests in Growing Innovation Ecosystem

 

Posted by: Jody Merritt

Chief Solutions Architect

Jody Meritt is the solutions architect operations team lead within SAIC’s Strategy, Growth, and Innovation group. She leads the assignment of resources and operations of the 80-plus SAIC solutions architects. As a chief solutions architect, Merritt supports SAIC’s business capture efforts by ensuring that the best technical solutions are being provided to SAIC customers. She is also engaged in SAIC’s innovation initiatives that include the Techstars Starburst Space Accelerator, where she serves as a mentor, and the SAIC Innovation Factory, where she contributes to approaches and solutions that accelerate delivery of emerging technologies and capabilities to customers.

Merritt joined SAIC in 2013 as part of the company’s acquisition of Scitor. She led SAIC’s U.S. Air Force business development prior to joining the solutions architects group in 2015. Prior to this, Merritt held positions in systems engineering, business development and capture, and program and education management positions in the high-tech and defense industries.

Merritt currently holds the rank of brigadier general, having served in the Air Force and Air Force Reserve. She is currently assigned as the mobilization assistant to the commander of the Combined Force Space Component Command of U.S. Space Command, assisting in the delivery of combat-relevant space capabilities to combatant commanders, coalition partners, and the U.S. joint force. Brig. Gen. Merritt is a member of the Air Reserve Forces Policy Committee and leads the travel pay reform initiative. In the Air Force, she has held traditional and innovation positions in acquisition and space operations and served multiple tours within the intelligence community.

Merritt is a graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy, graduating with military distinction with a degree in mathematics. She is a graduate of the Air Force’s intern program and has master’s degrees in computer information systems and organization management. Merritt holds certifications in program management, DevSecOps, ITIL, and change management.

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