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June 1, 2018

Innovation is really hard work. That Big New Idea? It’s only part of the equation. Adapting the technology, marrying it up to real-world problems and then actually making a process faster, better, cheaper – that’s the hard part.

At GDIT, innovation is rooted deeply in our DNA. Finding new and better ways to get things done gets us up in the morning and drives us all day long. It keeps us up at night.

Innovating is really about making connections. Seeing a problem and imagining a solution. Or seeing a new technology and recognizing it matches a need someplace else. Generations ago, those connections happened naturally. Government didn’t hunt down innovators – they came knocking. Federal investment, driven by national security and the space race, spawned the U.S. technology industry.

Then globalization and the Internet changed everything. Commercial markets and customers today dwarf what the government can offer. Getting in on the ground floor where the biggest innovations take place? That’s harder than ever.

This is why we created Emerging Technology Days – to bridge that divide. As a leading integrator, we live at the vortex of technological change and government requirements, giving us unique insight into both domains. We can be both catalyst for change and the critical mixing agent.

Twice each year, we select eight breakthrough innovations from among dozens we’ve investigated, then invite their top executives to present and demonstrate before a ballroom full of expert technologists, including members of our development teams and important government decision makers.

Narrowing down to eight is hard. Working closely with leading venture investors, like Andreesen Horowitz and Greylock Partners, as well as government offices like DIUX and In-Q-Tel, we first identify firms with technical promise in artificial intelligence, cyber security, data analytics and more. Then we vet those recommendations through our own in-house experts.

At our May 30 event in Washington, D.C., each presenter had 10 minutes to pitch his concept before a crowd of hundreds; after lunch, the audience could attend deeper briefings where they could ask questions, challenge assumptions and brainstorm use cases.

Now the work starts. We aim to get all eight participants under contract within 90 days, applying the emerging technologies to real-life use cases and hoping for transformative results. Not all survive, of course. You can’t have innovation without failure. But of 32 such partnerships forged this way over the past three years, 27 are still going strong.

This is a win for everyone. We access the startups’ awesome creativity and technologies; they gain access to GDIT’s unparalleled scale, domain expertise and customer experience – not to mention extensive portfolio of acquisition vehicles. That’s critical, because in government, acquisition is the key to making things happen.

Combining all those strengths makes a powerful brew. Sparks fly. Magic happens. Problems are solved. Our customer succeeds and taxpayers benefit.

What’s more, doors open to new possibilities previously not imagined.

Sure, innovation is hard. You know what else? It’s worth it.