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Wade B. Watts: Innovation Opportunities with National Security Innovation Network (NSIN)

 In Govcon Learning, GovCon Tips

Do you have a solution on hand? Then read this blog as Wade B. Watts talks about innovation opportunities with the National Security Innovation Network (NSIN)!


Wade B. Watts was an Air Force Officer working in a variety of different fields from aviation to war planning for over 20 years.

He then worked at Booz Allen Hamilton on different projects with the United States Strategic Command out of Offutt Air Force base.

He also became the Program Manager for their Systems Engineering contract with Global Innovation Strategy Center.

Currently, he is the University Program Director (UPD) at University of Nebraska at Omaha for the National Security Innovation Network (NSIN).

“Bring more people with a completely different mindset to have a fresh perspective on solving problems.”


The National Security Innovation Network (NSIN), a United States Department of Defense (DOD) program office under the Defense Innovation Unit, started as the MD5 National Security Technology Accelerator in 2016.

This network essentially helps the DOD units and commands to solve problems and challenges through working with different universities and community startups. 

Over the past years, NSIN gained over $200 million government contracts and over 200 dual use venture companies.

Currently, they have dedicated partnership agreements with 39 universities throughout the country and over 12 different programs to help solve problems at the university level. 

What NSIN actually does is they work with university faculty and students, as well as with startup communities, to solve problems from an academic perspective and help them move forward with the process.

Most importantly, NSIN has a huge network of people and this helps the organization work with more innovators and solve more problems. 

For instance, if the UPD in Massachusetts doesn’t have someone to solve something in the DOD unit that he is working with, the UPD in UC Berkeley may have an idea how to solve it. With this, they can start working and solve the problem together. 

“No matter where that client, as we call our DOD brethren, is in the United States, no matter where the expertise may lie throughout the United States, chances are, we can connect problems to solutions or people who can provide that solution. That’s the power of the NSIN network.”


1. National Service

The National Service portfolio gives people an opportunity to serve DOD without having to become a member of the institution. 

2. Collaboration 

The Collaboration portfolio is dedicated to solving problems on a nationwide basis. 

NSIN essentially gathers people from across the country to do a bootcamp or crash on a program, like what they usually do in their Hackathons.

3. Acceleration

Sometimes, people working with the two programs above who have already come up with an interim solution may want to form a company and build a prototype, go into production, or enter into a government contract.

This is essentially where the Acceleration portfolio comes in. NSIN supports these individuals with their venture engagements with potential DoD customers and stimulates the creation of new ventures from technologies emerging from DoD labs.


How to bring a solution to NSIN?

Each University Program Director usually establishes his or her own ecosystem that includes different companies in their particular area of responsibility.

For example, in Omaha, they just had an entrepreneurial symposium. They got together with a bunch of business accelerators, incubators, as well as other people who are in the business of creating companies. That’s essentially the start of an ecosystem. 

Because of these, UPDs are essentially working closely with people in their ecosystem together with the people in the NSIN network, this then gives them the capability of matching the problem and the solution together.

So, it is recommended for you to go into these events within or near your location. You can also go to NSIN’s website or you can send an email to

If you choose to navigate their website, you can learn more about their portfolios and programs, as well as check the University Program Directors near you together with their contact information.

How does the university affiliation play a role?

Think of the university as a civilian think tank. A lot of the problems that NSIN usually get from the DOD go directly to the universities, either the faculty, or the students, or both.

However, consider that in some cases, when they come up with a solution, it’s a theoretical solution.

Due to that, these people may either form their own companies or may want to work with a company to form another company or become part of their company and go forth with solutions. 

When to talk to them?

If you are in the conceptual stages, then NSIN can introduce you to various hubs and accelerators in order to get started or they can mentor you with your product or idea.

Also, if you have something which already got a component or a breadboard that’s gone through some type of validation in the lab, you can take advantage of some of their programs. 

Does NSIN get equity? 

NSIN doesn’t get any intellectual property or equity when you work with them. 

However, if you are seeking funding and you get a venture capitalist who helped you with that solution through NSIN, then that person may want to get a piece of that equity. 


If you want to learn more on how to take advantage of the innovation opportunities with the National Security Innovation Network (NSIN), then be sure to click the resources below.

You can also visit the GovCon Giant website or the new GovCon Edu where you learn everything about government contracting!

Innovation Opportunities with National Security Innovation Network – Wade B. Watts


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