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On The Road to Innovation

For the past few months, Presidential Innovation Fellows have traveled across the nation to learn more about their projects. Meet Fellows Clarice Chan and Sarayu Srinivasan who share more about their work at the VA and NIST.

Profile picture of Sarayu Srinivasan in front of Summit, the fastest supercomputer in the world.
PIF Sarayu Srinivasan in front of Summit, the fastest supercomputer in the world

Here is Presidential Innovation Fellow Sarayu Srinivasan in front of Summit, the fastest supercomputer in the world! This up close tour also included floor walks of the Advanced Manufacturing Facility, National Transport Research Center and the Spallation Neutron Source on her trip to Oak Ridge National Laboratory where the DOE Innovation XLab’s Advanced Manufacturing Summit was held.

The summit brought together thought leaders and industry stakeholders to explore new solutions to manufacturing challenges and opportunities. The event is intended to catalyze public-private partnerships and commercialization hand-offs. During the summit, Sarayu met with many of the DOE’s federal labs including Livermore, PNNL, Sandia, Brookhaven, Argonne, Los Alamos and Berkeley, as well as with heads of industry, and leaders of federal and state government. She was also present for the DOE’s exciting announcements including the first 3D-printed parts to be used in a nuclear micro-reactor, the ground breaking on a new lab featuring DOE Secretary Rick Perry and the announcement of Frontier, the next supercomputer scheduled to go online at Oakridge in 2021!

In addition to visiting Summit, Sarayu had the opportunity to visit ORNL’s applied research facilities including the Manufacturing Demonstration Facility; National Transportation Research Center; Grid Research, Integration, and Deployment Center; and the Carbon Fiber Technology Facility. She also stopped by ORNL’s Big Science tools to check out the Spallation Neutron Source and Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility, home to Summit.

Sarayu is detailed to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and working on the Lab to Market initiative, Capgoal 14 of the President’s Management Agenda. NIST and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) are leading this cross-agency priority goal convening agencies including DOD, DOE, NIH, NASA, USDA and others. She is tasked with helping better engage the private sector, industry and investors, with federally funded technologies driving the next waves of industry and innovation in the United States.

Meeting Veterans where they are, not where we are.

In order for government agencies to achieve their goal of improving customer experience (CX), they must lead with a culture and practice of customer-obsession and user-centered design. This begins with deeply understanding systems, staff processes, end-to-end operations, and most importantly, customer touch-points. Clarice Chan, a PIF detailed to the US Department of Veterans Affairs, began her digital transformation journey doing just that.

Profile picture of Clarice Chan seating n a chair at the VA customer call center.
PIF Clarice Chan, visiting a VA field office on a listening tour to understand how the VA interacts with its customers.

Before diving into designing solutions, Clarice toured VA’s across the country on an immersive listening tour. She spent time observing VA Hospitals hard at work, as well as shadowed how VA Regional Offices process claims and benefits. Clarice’s principal focus within the VA CTO’s Office is digital transformation in Veteran communications. It’s incredibly important that our Veterans receive timely and effective correspondence throughout their claims process as we look to modernize government services.

The trip yielded a plethora of usability, technical, and systems thinking insights that would never have been uncovered otherwise by conventional research. By putting users, customers, and employees at the center of tackling the problem, the VA is beginning to pivot to leading with a user-first approach to digital transformation. This will ultimately be foundational in pioneering, scaling, and shipping modern government service design. There is a long way to go, but it starts with taking the journey. We are excited to bring this kind of immersive and empathetic product thought leadership to help transform modern government services.

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