MD5, the Department of Defense (DOD) program that collaborates with universities, entrepreneurs and innovators to keep the U.S. military tech savvy, is establishing a Southeast presence at the American Underground (AU) in Durham.

The MD5 program launches Friday afternoon, August 31 with the “Duke meets Defense tech tour” beginning at the AU at 2:30.

Tommy Sowers, MD5’s Southeast regional director, tells WRAL TechWire that the Triangle’s great universities, the Southeast’s top entrepreneurial ecosystem and the density of the Army, Marine, and Air Force conventional and special operations forces within two hours driving distance make the Triangle “A unicorn hard to find anywhere else in America.”

He added, “We know how unique this space is.  It’s different from other tech hubs in the nation. Within two hours drive, you have the largest Army base, the largest Marine base, and the largest concentration of F-15 fighters in the nation.” The idea is to bring together three communities that all “Speak different languages, academics, entrepreneurs and the military. On August 31st, we’l start connecting these elite communities to do good for our nation.”

The Southeast region of MD5 runs from North Carolina to Florida and Louisiana.

MD5’s three portfolios

MD5’s presence at the AU builds on its increased focus on supporting military and veteran affairs. In June, AU named Tim Horan their first veteran-in-residence, with the aim of helping veterans and service members transition from active duty to careers in growing tech companies.

“Our region boasts one of the largest populations of active duty service members and veterans in the nation,” Horan said in a statement. “This concentration of talent and knowledge in both the military and civilian ecosystems overlap and mutually benefit each other in ways unlike other hubs of innovation in the country. The launch of MD5 at the AU strengthens the partnerships between entrepreneurs and the military.”

MD5 has three portfolios of programs and services: education, collaboration, and acceleration. Its education portfolio delivers programs bringing innovation methods and the tools of entrepreneurship to the DOD workforce.

It’s collaboration programs facilitates “Collision events that connect warfighters with its network of academic and venture partners to prototype new concepts. Its acceleration programs provides services to sustain those new solutions and novel applications, supporting prototyping and testing.

Among the technologies of interest to the military, Sowers said, are automation, drones and anti-drone technologies, computer vision so Green Berets can see and understand how to move to an objective, and more effective use of social media.” Sowers cautioned that those are just examples and MD5 is interested in a wide range of innovation.

Sowers will also be teaching a MD5 course at Duke in the spring of 2019 called “Hacking for defense.” The course has been very succesful, he said. “Student teams learn how to build a startup focused on solving national security problems. I’t a sort of 21st century ROTC, but instead of joining the military if they want to serve their country, they can code in a way that solves problems.”

American Underground is owned by Capitol Broadcasting, WRAL TechWire’s parent company.