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Tech Transfer Program Success Stories

Tech Transfer Success Stories | March 24, 2023

NSA and Minority Serving Institutions: Using Image Recognition for Data Triage with North Carolina Agricultural and Technical (A&T) State University

The National Security Agency (NSA) partnered with North Carolina Agricultural and Technical (A&T) State University through a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) to explore ways image recognition can improve analysis and sense-making for mission use. The Minority Serving Institutions (MSI) team, made up of A&T students, faculty, and NSA researchers, reported that this groundbreaking partnership creates an opportunity “to encourage and foster the critical skills that NSA will need to continue to support our military and to inform our nation's leaders.”

The agreement, which was executed by NSA’s Office of Research and Technology Applications (ORTA), is part of the MSI CRADA. ORTA created the MSI CRADA to increase the Agency’s engagement with a variety of MSIs, like Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), with a focus on conducting research and development on various topics like the Internet of Things (IoT), national cybersecurity posture and cyber analysis, and secure composition and system science. North Carolina A&T is the largest, public HBCU in the country and has been nationally recognized for their excellence in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education.

As a result of their research, the team prototyped image recognition triage technology designed to assess images on the project’s goal focus levels. The outcome of this project laid the foundation for further LAS research focused on advancing analytic tradecraft and capabilities through research and prototyping in the areas of machine learning, analytic performance, content triage, and data prioritization. 

The students and Agency researchers reported that the continued relationship between the Agency and North Carolina A&T has allowed participants to engage in research, education and outreach to strengthen national security and increase diversity within the DoD, NSA LAS and University of North Carolina system.

The Agency continues to prioritize diversity, equality and inclusion throughout their partnerships; the creation of the MSI CRADA is one avenue to establish these opportunities. Karen Presley, ORTA’s Deputy Director, said the MSI CRADA helps the Agency collaborate with universities and encourage other schools to partner with each other. “These partnerships let us agilely engage with a larger pool of MSIs,” she said. “It could also help us diversify our recruitment pool, by establishing a relationship with young talent.”

The NSA ORTA technology transfer program establishes partnerships between industry, academia, and other government agencies to help accelerate mission, advance science, foster innovation, and promote the growth and commercialization of technology originally created for Agency mission.

Questions? Contact NSA’s Technology Transfer Program
Office of Research & Technology Applications, NSA Research Directorate |