Pentagon partners with UofL to expand defense innovation

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By Jill Scoggins

The University of Louisville and the U.S. Department of Defense’s National Security Innovation Network (NSIN) have entered into an agreement that solidifies collaboration among DoD end-users, UofL students and faculty, and Metro Louisville’s early-stage venture community. Will Fortune, an accomplished leader in the military and acquisition community with ties to Kentucky, has been tapped to head the program at UofL. 

NSIN, an undersecretary of defense for research and engineering program, is changing how the DoD solves national security problems by connecting defense, academic and entrepreneurial innovators in artificial intelligence, bioengineering, autonomous systems and cybersecurity. NSIN is building a diverse defense network through three portfolios: 

  • NSIN Collaboration Portfolio increases the intellectual diversity of the DoD by engaging academia and the venture community on national security issues 
  • NSIN National Service Portfolio promotes opportunities for national security service among populations that might not otherwise consider a career in national security 

NSIN programs allow the university to expand its already robust innovation ecosystem and relationships with the Department of Defense. This new partnership gives students and faculty opportunities to work on real-world national security problems at startup speed. Students and faculty will interact with key military decision-makers and have access to federal funding to develop solutions and technologies. In addition, the agreement also provides students access to internships and employment opportunities with the Department of Defense. 

“The University of Louisville is honored to have been chosen to participate in the NSIN program,” said UofL President Neeli Bendapudi. “Across the nation, the NSIN is leveraging universities’ abilities to work with industry in providing viable solutions to issues faced by our military worldwide. As one of only 16 institutions in the nation, and one of three in the program’s southeast region, to have a NSIN university program director on our campus, this collaboration is exciting for our faculty and students.” 

Fortune is a Navy pilot with over 20 years of active duty and reserve experience. He has deployed to South America, Afghanistan and Europe. Most recently, he served as assistant chief of staff for the U.S. Navy’s Second Fleet. His local civilian experience includes serving as director of business development for the Kentucky Aerospace Industry Consortium and director of program management for the city of Lexington. He earned a master’s degree at The Naval War College and a bachelor’s degree at Davidson College. 

“I am excited for this new partnership between NSIN and the University of Louisville. Although I cherish my time as a naval aviator, it is not the only way to serve our country,” Fortune said. “The Department of Defense needs talented individuals to help solve our toughest national security problems and critical technology gaps. The University of Louisville and the state of Kentucky have a deep pool of brilliant innovators, and my goal is to build an extensive innovation ecosystem focused on addressing these national security challenges.” 

Read on UofLNews.com here.