news | 9 May 2024

Defense Innovation Unit Launches First CSO Under New Emerging Technology Portfolio


Quantum sensing and hypersonics will be among the first lines of effort for the new portfolio

Washington, D.C. (May 9, 2024) — The Defense Innovation Unit (DIU) announced the first Commercial Solutions Opening solicitation under its newest portfolio focused on Emerging Technology - Transition of Quantum Sensors (TQS).  Sensors designed at the atomic level offer the promise of significant improvements in precision, accuracy, and sensitivity compared to classical sensors.  The TQS project will focus on demonstrating the military utility of quantum sensors to address strategic Joint Force competencies like positioning, navigation, and timing (PNT) and anomaly detection. 

DIU’s Emerging Technology portfolio aims to advance initiatives derived from  multi-disciplinary, deep-tech offerings from the commercial and non-traditional ecosystems that do not have a clear, well established pathway within the Department of Defense. The portfolio will also coordinate closely with DIU’s National Security Innovation Capital, which looks at funding hardware technologies, and coordinate across the rest of the Department’s innovation entities.  

LtCol Nicholas Estep, an active duty Air Force Officer and veteran technical program manager within DIU, has been appointed as the Portfolio Director.  Prior to DIU, he completed a PhD in Metamaterials and Plasmonics at the University of Texas at Austin, followed by a five year tour at the National Reconnaissance Office.   

In addition to TQS, DIU’s seventh portfolio will execute DIU’s existing and future efforts within the hypersonics community, to include the high-cadence airborne testing capabilities (HyCAT) program. Long term, the portfolio is expected to facilitate prototyping efforts focused on advanced materials and propulsion, nanotechnology, photonics, microelectronics, additive manufacturing and quantum information science. 

“I am excited to lead DIU’s newest portfolio with a focus on Emerging Technology,  maintain momentum on the hypersonics front, and to rapidly mature quantum-derived applications with our DoD stakeholders,” said LtCol Estep. “This portfolio will create important connections across the DoD and commercial community to address capability gaps across the services.”

In early 2023, DIU launched the HyCAT initiative, a program prototyping a suite of modern, low-cost, high-cadence, dual-use airborne testing platforms (vehicles) that accelerate the evaluation of potential systems, concepts, technologies, and mission sets. As of November 2023, DIU has awarded contracts to six companies in support of HyCAT.

DIU’s entrance into the quantum sensing domain started with an atomic gyroscope experimental payload awaiting space demonstration.  

Emerging Technology joins DIU’s six other portfolios, which include Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, Autonomy, Cyber and Telecom, Energy, Human Systems and Space. 

The Emerging Technology portfolio’s first solicitation, TQS, is live as of May 9. For more information on the Emerging Technology portfolio, contact