Posted: February 29, 2008

$2 billion Indiana military technical center taps world-class university firepower

(Nanowerk News) Have more than a casual interest to work on fuel cells, fiber lasers, hyper-spectral imagers, threat device detection or SIGINT, ELINT, MASINT and HUMINT technology? These and other needs were on deck at what was described as an “unprecedented gathering” on Feb. 20: the first-annual NSWC Crane University Summit.
In the daylong meeting, top research and engagement officials from 12 major Hoosier-based universities – including science administrators at the provost, vice provost and technology dean levels – met with senior professionals from the Technology Engagement Office at Crane’s Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC).
Top university officials from Purdue, Notre Dame, the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology and Indiana University joined officials from Indiana State University, Ivy Tech, Vincennes University, the University of Indianapolis, Butler University and others to discuss how key research faculty could better engage with the $2 billion NSWC Crane facility for the commercialization and development of new technology for defense purposes.
University scientists and technology representatives presented capabilities and current engagements with NSWC Crane and other military operations. The non-classified presentations included information on military-related nanotechnology, space technology development, applied engineering, advanced composite innovations and military-related IT research, according to WestGate @ Crane managing partner Dale Ankrom.
“The defense industry in Indiana represents a billion-dollar potential,” said Dan Denning, deputy director of the Indiana Office of Energy & Defense Development (OED), to the group of 53 participants. Sponsored by the WestGate @ Crane Technology Park, the summit featured several presentations by university officials and defense-related professionals.
“Crane already reaps the benefits of direct partnerships with several outstanding universities in Indiana. We hope this summit will help open new lines of communication to maximize innovative opportunities,” said NSWC Crane technical director Duane Embree.
Jon Davey – legislative assistant for military affairs in the office of U.S. Sen. Evan Bayh – keynoted the summit. He discussed the current status of military funding and possible means for the universities to connect to federal dual-use research. Emmy Huffman (a military affairs specialist from the office of U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar) and John Clark (an OED director, who also represented Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels) also attended.
“It’s exciting to see this kind of technology firepower concentrated in one room,” Clark remarked.
“Purdue has the expertise, interest and capabilities to support defense-related industries and research,” said Purdue interim vice provost for engagement Jay Akridge. “This is extremely important to Purdue,” he continued, echoing comments made by representatives from other participating universities.
An Indiana work force with special training represents a critical need for defense-related development, according to Susan Brooks. Brooks – who is general counsel and senior vice president for work force and economic development for Ivy Tech and formerly served the region as the U.S. attorney for the southern district of Indiana – says Ivy Tech was prepared to partner with other Indiana academic institutions to help prepare students for defense growth opportunities.
Peter Kilpatrick – dean of Notre Dame’s engineering school – outlined the extensive work the Irish technology faculty has been providing for the military in nanotechnology, aero-optics and network communications. Purdue has long possessed deep ties with the defense industry and has recently sharpened its already extensive specialties with the establishment of the Purdue Homeland Security Institute and related faculty defense research groups.
Taylor University, which is better known to some as a private Christian liberal arts institution, pointed out the surprising depth of its scientific work in the defense industry. Donald Takehara (director of Taylor’s Center for Research and Innovation) discussed at length the institution’s NASA satellite work and space science.
The Hoosier state’s technology prowess is evident in defense work all over the state, according to OED division manager Jason Lovell. NSWC Crane pumps more than $1.3 million into the Indiana economy every day, which touches companies and other military facilities all over Hoosierland.
Military intellectual property issues were reviewed at the summit by James Sweeney. He’s a partner with the Barnes & Thornburg law firm and a combat-experienced colonel in the U.S. Marine Corp Reserve. Cullen McCarty (president of Smithville Digital) noted critical means for universities and research organizations to connect through big-pipe fiber-optics in the WestGate and on to NSWC Crane.
Emphasizing the importance of customized and secure solutions for university-driven military research, McCarty shared a light moment with the group: “We’re not AT&T. We’re not Verizon. We’re better.”
Ankrom added: “NSWC Crane has recently stressed how they want to be close to Purdue and other major universities for development. Purdue in particular has long said the WestGate region offers an excellent opportunity for the development and commercialization of new technology. We’re pleased to be able to support this growing partnership.”
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