Despite being better positioned for a downturn in military demand than any of its defense-industry competitors, number-one rated Pentagon contractor Lockheed Martin is pursuing a wide range of commercial opportunities. Having increased dividends at a 22% annual rate over the past ten years, company execs want to keep growing even if that means shifting the focus of innovation to non-traditional markets. The area where the $46 billion company seems to be making the most bets is the world’s oceans. Last week it inked a deal to build a 10 megawatt ocean thermal energy conversion plant of the coast of southern China. Last month it was awarded an exploration contract to mine polymetallic nodules on the seabed between Mexico and Hawaii. Other Lockheed Martin ventures include a breakthrough approach to desalination of seawater; an automated aquaculture system that produces sushi-quality fish while eliminating environmental problems in sea farming; and cryogenic fuel tanks for oceangoing vessels powered by liquid natural gas. Most of the new ventures leverage technology the company originally developed for military customers. I have written a commentary for Forbes here.
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