SPECIAL INTEREST

As part of our technology strategy, and to foster a culture of innovation and enterprise collaboration, Raytheon sponsors an annual Raytheon Innovation Challenge (RIC) to leverage new technologies to create value-added solutions to key customer needs. The premise of the RIC is that good ideas can come from anyone; however, authors need to understand customer needs and have a path for submission, refinement, and mentoring of ideas towards initial product development and insertion.

Figure 1: Innovation Principles.

The RIC starts by creating an internal call for ideas whereby any employee can submit a short white paper and single chart describing the essence of an idea for a solution to an announced topic challenge. This targeted innovation process exposes employees to customer needs they may not have been aware of, and often connects the kernel of a solution from one domain or product area to
customer needs. 

RIC Process

The RIC process has been developed to maximize collaboration, innovation, trust, respect, and accountability — Raytheon’s core values. Challenge topics are solicited each year from technology and business leaders from across the company as well as identified from Department of Defense (DoD) and Intelligence Community (IC) guiding strategy documents and priorities.  With topics defined, the RIC process is launched.

HOW DOES IT WORK: 

  • Targeted capability statements
  • Raytheon-wide call for ideas
  • White paper submissions
  • Review and initial downselect for workshop participation
  • Workshop for expansion, refinement, and plan definition
  • Peer-based downselect to most promising ideas
  • Focused projects to address key risk areas
  • Follow-on support from business unit or customer
Figure 2: Elements of Innovative Culture.

This process is used to connect innovators from across Raytheon. Each year, about half of the authors invited to the workshop have not attended a prior RIC workshop. About 30% have been with Raytheon for less than five years, and about 20% have been with the company for more than 20 years, resulting in a very diverse population. 

The principles of innovation underpinning the RIC process and workshop methods are outlined in Figure 1.

Along with the innovation principles, there are essential elements to an innovative culture, as listed in Figure 2, which must also be fostered and reinforced for successful outcomes.

All of the RIC process and innovation workshop activities work to pull out the key attributes of a successful RIC project as shown in Figure 3: customer needs, market viability, and technical feasibility for an innovative solution led by a passionate project leader. The project leader, and their team, are the most critical elements of a successful RIC project within a robust innovation culture.

Figure 3: Key elements of RIC success.

RIC Outcomes

A successful RIC project is one that addresses the critical technical risk elements associated with the key technical nugget of the project. With pull from a strong business champion, this results in follow-on funding, typically from a business unit, for additional maturation for product demonstration or insertion.  

Examples of successful RIC projects include:

Remote Maintenance for Reduced Manning (RM2): Demonstrated the key technical aspects for using augmented reality for a field support engineer to perform tasks with direct participation of a remote subject matter expert, thus expediting the repair, reducing travel and support costs, and increasing system up-time.

Kaleidoscope – Network Maneuver: Developed a dynamic, random, network application maneuvering method that reduced the dwell time of advanced persistent threats in cyber-physical systems.

Magnetic Aided Initial Navigation System (INS) with Automated Video Assisted TARgeting (MAIN AVATAR): Developed a method for using the profile of the earth’s magnetic field for navigation in a GPS-denied environment. 

War Head by Additive Manufacturing (WHAM): Used novel AM design and manufacturing methods to increase the effectiveness of the blast pattern of munitions. 

Generalized Representation Algorithm for Presentation of Heuristics (GRAPH): Applied graph analytics to digital system models to enable system engineers to visualize and more efficiently search the system design trade space.  

Deliverable Additive Manufacturing System for Harsh Environments (DAMSHE): Took an Additive Manufacturing (AM) process and improved it with post-processing to provide a watertight, high strength polymer/metal composite for an underwater vehicle. 

Autonomous Learning Employing Shape Estimation (ALESE): Applied an emerging machine learning method based on data shape estimation to improve target classification.

Overall Impact and Employee Feedback

One of the measures of a successful innovation program is the culture it helps create, the excitement it generates in employees, along with the new products and methods that are produced. The RIC has other important outcomes as well, including:

  • Broadens exposure of customer needs
  • Energizes workforce
  • Novel solutions with initial refinement
  • New Intellectual Property (IP)
  • Contributes to new discriminators
  • Enhances enterprise collaboration
  • Strengthens culture of innovation 

After each RIC workshop, an anonymous survey of the attendees is done to garner feedback on areas for improvement and to gauge the effectiveness of the process. The answer to each question ranges from strongly disagree to strongly agree. Over the last 5 years, 96% of the survey responses agreed or strongly agreed that the RIC workshop was of high value to Raytheon overall, and 89% agreed or strongly agreed that the workshop was of high value to their career development. 95% of the responses agreed or strongly agreed that the workshop was successful in fostering collaboration and innovative thinking. 84% agreed or strongly agreed that the most promising ideas for Raytheon were selected at the workshop for further development. Finally, and perhaps the best test of the overall process, 85% responded that they will consider submitting another idea to a future RIC.

Summary

The Raytheon Innovation Challenge is one mechanism the company uses to foster innovation to challenge the status quo and act with speed to drive global growth. The RIC process has been refined over many years to accommodate different innovation styles and foster an intrapreneurial (i.e., internal entrepreneurial) process whereby any employee can propose an idea for an opportunity to develop it towards a new product, process or method to add quantifiable value to the company. 

— John Zolper
— Michael Vahey