NORFOLK, Va.--Located nearby hulking destroyers and aircraft carriers docked in Norfolk, Virginia, is the NATO Innovation Hub, an organization tasked with researching some of the alliance's toughest technological issues.
The hub is part of NATO's Allied Command Transformation, which explores new and emerging technologies and concepts to prepare for tomorrow's battles.
The purpose of the command is to look into the future, said Serge Da Deppo, manager of the innovation hub. "A big part of the job in our command is to develop new capabilities that are meant to be efficient in facing new challenges."
The command--which employs about 600 people at Naval Station Norfolk--is also in charge of education and training for NATO forces as they prepare for current and upcoming operations, he added.
The innovation hub--which is located at a separate office on the Old Dominion University campus--was created six years ago when leaders at the command realized that many of the technological nuts they were trying to crack required more input from industry and academia, he said.
"Most of the future challenges that they have to prepare for are really outside of the traditional military business," Da Deppo told National Defense during a visit to the hub.
"We in house don't have all the expertise needed to understand those [upcoming] challenges and even less to prepare new solutions and capabilities," he said. The organization is intended "to be the interface between NATO and the rest of the world with the purpose to collaborate with people who are smarter than us, who understand much better the environment and the future challenges, and will help NATO understand and figure out solutions," he added.
Getting fresh perspectives on tough and enduring issues is important, said Marc Leydecker, an engineer at the hub, who has worked with NATO for nearly 30 years.
"If you are stuck... why don't you ask academia or industry, and say, 'Hey, how would you solve this issue?'" he said. "You get a whole different perspective, and I think that's... [why] the innovation hub is so successful, because you get a whole slew of different ideas."
For some time Western militaries were known as being on the cutting edge of new, emerging technology, but now they often fall behind, he said.
"Unfortunately, the military doesn't evolve very rapidly because of bureaucracy," Leydecker said. "If you want to see what the future will bring, you really need to be involved with academia and with...