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How to shave years off the journey from military lab to real-world use

DARPA's Blake Bextine talks us through taking inventions commercial

Interview You've heard of some of the world-altering technologies that have come out of the US Department of Defense's Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, because you might not be reading this otherwise.

GPS, the internet, robot vacuums, and even mRNA vaccines got their start one way or another in Pentagon-funded labs. Going from possibility to product is hard, slow, or impossible altogether, though.

To talk about how DARPA plans to speed up its research-to-commercialization pipeline, The Register spoke with Blake Bextine, who helps lead the agency's Embedded Entrepreneurship Initiative, or EEI.

Begun in 2019, EEI pairs DARPA researchers with business leaders, which Bextine said has the potential to shave years off of the time it takes to get a market-ready product from a DARPA experiment. Bextine likened the project to a Pentagon-centered incubator, bringing together people skilled in particular areas - such as innovators and business leaders - who may not find each other otherwise. 

Bextine knows this first hand, he told us. Before taking on a leadership role at EEI, he was a university professor and DARPA researcher who participated in EEI projects, including one that used bacteria as the basis for a new form of self-building concrete.

But while DARPA is a military agency, its mission is far from just a warfare-centric one, Bextine said. Watch to learn a bit about the history of EEI, some of the other projects it has launched, and Bextine's view that DARPA's research, and EEI by extension, can help avoid war just as much as fight it. ®

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