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ONR Sponsors New Academic Center for National Security Innovation

For Immediate Release: Nov 26, 2021

ARLINGTON, Va.—The Office of Naval Research (ONR) continues its 75-year-old commitment to fostering innovation with the sponsorship of a Stanford University-based academic center formally launching next week. Media members are invited to attend the opening ceremony by clicking here.

The Gordian Knot Center for National Security Innovation (GKC) will help reimagine how the U.S. government approaches national security innovation, dedicated to solving pressing national security concerns and empowering students to tackle challenges at the intersection of commercial technologies (e.g., artificial intelligence, machine learning, autonomy) and the instruments of national power (e.g., diplomacy, information, military, economic).

The center is marking its formal launch on Tuesday, Nov. 30, at 5:30 p.m. Pacific Time, during a virtual livestreamed event that will coincide with the final class session of Technology, Innovation and Great Power Competition—a new national security course at Stanford, developed and taught by founding members of the GKC, including innovation thought leader Steve Blank. At this session, students will share their journeys as they worked to understand critical problems at the intersection of technology and national security, and the solutions they propose.

The class is an example of the types of activities the center intends to promote and empower—and of the kind of innovative efforts ONR is dedicated to advancing.

“A Gordian Knot is a metaphor for an intractable problem,” said Chief of Naval Research Rear Adm. Lorin C. Selby. “Today, our nation faces many intractable problems, from great power competition to non-state actor threats, as we reimagine what naval power looks like in the 21st century. We’re seeking new disruptive technologies, new operational concepts, and new types of program management and mindsets.”

The GKC will be based at the university’s Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, which is located at Stanford in the heart California’s Silicon Valley, the epicenter of the U.S. innovation ecosystem. The GKC aims to bridge silos across the Department of Defense (DoD), industry and academia—and foster greater innovation by helping to develop and inspire the national security workforce, from prospective entrants to senior executives.

The GKC will coordinate resources at Stanford and throughout Silicon Valley to execute three lines of effort: (1) national security innovation education; (2) training for national security innovators; and (3) insight, integration and policy outreach.

ONR’s involvement with the GKC is the newest chapter in a seven-decade partnership with Stanford that began in 1946—when the command awarded grants to Fred Terman, dean of the university’s engineering school. He used the opportunity to set up the Stanford Electronics Research Lab, which advanced basic and applied research in microwave devices and electronics, enabled the university to become a leader in these fields, and sparked the investment and innovation that would create Silicon Valley.

“In 1946, ONR partnered with Stanford in an effort that dramatically transformed American innovation,” said Selby. “Now we are collaborating with Stanford on another extremely important initiative, one we believe will be just as transformative to today’s challenges of accelerating technology development and delivery to our naval forces.”

Joe Felter, GKC’s director and one of its founders, concurred: “In the coming decades, the U.S. will be engaged in great power competition with our strategic rivals, and there’s no guarantee we’ll come out ahead. Addressing the challenges facing the DoD and broader national security community demands unprecedented imagination and creativity.”

Learn about GKC and its mission at

For more information about the Nov. 30 GKC launch event, contact To attend, click here.

About the Office of Naval Research

The Department of the Navy’s Office of Naval Research provides the science and technology necessary to maintain the Navy and Marine Corps’ technological advantage. Through its affiliates, ONR is a leader in science and technology with engagement in 50 states, 55 countries, 634 institutions of higher learning and nonprofit institutions, and more than 960 industry partners. ONR, through its commands, including headquarters, ONR Global and the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C., employs more than 3,800 people, comprising uniformed, civilian and contract personnel.