By Jody Merritt, Chief Solutions Architect
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.
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.
About the author: Jody Merritt is an accomplished technical and thought leader in the space domain, with 26 years of DoD and industry experience in program management, systems engineering, and development of electronics, software, cyber, and aerospace systems. Her SAIC responsibilities include corporate strategy, solution development, technical innovation, and continued positioning of the company as a premier government solutions and services provider. Currently a reservist holding the rank of brigadier general, she has served in the U.S. Air Force for over 30 years, with a deep background in multiple space and ground systems, government requirements development, acquisition, data analytics, and mission operations. Jody holds degrees in computer information systems, organizational management, and mathematics. Follow Jody on LinkedIn.