Ross Wilkers

COMPANIES

SAIC's Austin presence boosts connection to emerging tech

Science Applications International Corp. is making its presence known in the growing technology startup hub of Austin, Texas with a new office there in near-proximity to Army Futures Command.

The company will take space in Capital Factory, a technology accelerator and coworking space started in 2013 intended in part to connect emerging technology startups and entrepreneurs with investors. Futures Command also has a presence inside Capital Factory.

Slated to be fully-operational this year, Army Futures Command is a consolidation of several modernization initiatives into one organization and is aimed at bringing private sector innovations into the Army. The Army chose Austin in part because of its proximity to the tech startup community there.

SAIC’s presence inside Capital Factory is one facet of the government IT contractor’s larger push to build and cultivate an ecosystem of partnerships with technology companies, whose products SAIC would then integrate into an agency’s enterprise. The company’s standing up of an “Innovation Factory” is also a piece of how SAIC is re-wiring itself to bring those technologies to federal agencies.

In part of my conversation with SAIC Chief Technology Officer Charles Onstott last month at their Innovation Factory, we discussed how systems integrators like his have to pay more attention to, invest more time and resources, and have active dialogue with startups and investors in the commercial technology arena.

One of the main reasons for that is a “tectonic shift over the past decade” as Onscott described it in terms of where a majority of innovation comes from. Whereas previously the government largely drove that through research-and-development spending, the pyramid of innovation has flipped to where the private sector is in charge.

“The government, I think, is starting to really understand that thoroughly, which I think is great,” Onstott told me. “As a result of that, they are now opening up to the idea of ‘Well, there are actually probably solutions out there we could benefit from without doing a bunch of custom development.’

“It may sound a little counter-intuitive that as a technology integrator I think that is a good development, but I think it is a good development because what it means is that we can get them solutions much faster and at less cost.”

SAIC is also making its presence known at the South by Southwest festival in Austin for the first time this week. The company is a founding member of Capital Factory’s Defense Innovation Council and is participating in two panels on artificial intelligence and government contracts security.

About the Author

Ross Wilkers is a senior staff writer for Washington Technology. He can be reached at rwilkers@washingtontechnology.com. Follow him on Twitter: @rosswilkers. Also find and connect with him on LinkedIn.

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