Research Reports

Training in Innovation and Emerging Technology Adoption

September 2023

March 2023

AUTHORS: Dr. Maegen Nix, Ms. Christina Houfek

In response to Congressional tasking, AIRC partnered with the Defense Acquisition University to study the status of innovation and emerging technology adoption training programs available to Department of Defense (DoD) employees (government civilians, contractors, and active duty). AIRC researchers from the Virginia Tech Applied Research Corporation (VT-ARC) prepared a comprehensive review of the topic through literature reviews, interviews, and surveys. Drawing from the broader study, this report presents the status of DoD, academia, and industry innovation and emerging technology adoption training programs while specifically addressing enumerated items requested by Congress.

Results indicate that training in the contracting, life-cycle logistics, and test and evaluation functions have the fewest traditional learning opportunities. These functions play a critical role in the innovation and technology adoption journey, but DoD staff performing these functions have limited opportunities to understand their role in the adoption process and the agility required to facilitate critical innovation and emerging technology integration and operationalization.

One of the most interesting findings is that there are no training opportunities that integrate the necessary interconnection between relevant career fields to provide a unified understanding of the overarching innovation in emerging technology pathways or processes. This lack of integration impacts acquisition effectiveness and was identified during interviews as critical. Providing cross-organization and cross-functional learning opportunities will enhance the understanding of roles and responsibilities and will improve information flow across stovepipes, combating cylindrical thinking. In depth interviews also identified five other key points: processes and policies have great impact on adoption; tailored training to target specific gaps is necessary; workforce development is a critical enabler; culture has an outsized impact on adoption; and seams between organizations create boundaries to innovation and emerging technology adoption.