It may come as a surprise to most Americans, but gone are the days when the United States – and its military in particular – can claim sole ownership of the scientific and technological frontier.
This message comes from no less an authority than Chris Fall, assistant director for defense programs with the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. As the opening keynote speaker for the 2016 Innovation Crossover conference being held Wednesday and Thursday at the Bloomington/Monroe County Convention Center, Fall described how facilities such as Naval Surface Warfare Center Crane are collaborating with public/private enterprise and research institutions such as Indiana University to meet this 21st century challenge.
“Today, much of our manufacturing and even research and development comes from offshore. Historically, the cutting edge of technology development occurred in the government sector. Now, the best and most relevant technology comes from the commercial sector,” Fall said. “On top of that, our budgets are a mess and we’re retiring many talented people. So we need to be more agile and porous in how we work with people, how we run our facilities and infrastructure and how we define roles and responsibilities as we work to implement a national innovation strategy.”
A first-of-its-kind event for southwest central Indiana, Innovation Crossover is sponsored by NSWC Crane with the main objective of fostering research collaboration with industries and universities to address mutual technology hurdles and spur regional economic growth. During the past year, NSWC Crane has worked with IU, Purdue University, the University of Southern Indiana, Cook Medical, U.S. Air Force Research Labs, the Indiana Office of Defense Development and Radius Indiana to develop the conference.
As facilities such as Crane learn to adapt to new realities in developing defense systems and technologies, they are looking not only to recruit the best and brightest minds, but also improve diversity and “flow” of such knowledge.
“We have to enable more fluid movement between different parts of the government, the private sector and academia, along with making sure we access the full range of talent available,” Fall said. “At the same time, many efforts are under way in the areas of workforce reform, an increased emphasis on STEM education and advanced workforce development through career immersion programs that align with local, state and federal needs.”
Additionally, efforts are being made to modernize research centers with “unique and complementary” capabilities that meet national security needs, yet also serve as shared infrastructure with potential research collaborators, Fall said.
“In the past, we (government) made it hard to work with industry. But we need to learn to manage risk. We have to be comfortable with more gray areas – and not be as black-and-white as we once were,” Fall said. “We also need to streamline rules and regulations, particularly as they involve interaction with industry and academic partners. But kudos need to go to Crane and IU and their strategic planning. They are thinking about the same things we are.”
Following Fall’s address and an industry panel discussion comprised of representatives from MED Institute Inc., General Electric Aviation and Rolls-Royce Corp., competitively selected presentations by academic and military researchers offered insights into rising areas of research that can benefit from government, industry and university collaboration. Such areas include:
- Additive manufacturing (Dan Berrigan, Air Force Research Lab): Through the use of 3D printing of metal, ceramic and plastic components, manufacturing times are being reduced while increasingly more technology is “crammed” into components. As one example, Miller presented a servo cover for a MQ-9 Reaper drone in which a communications antenna was embedded in the cover itself. Additional applications allow military depots to continue making parts for older vehicles – even when the original manufacturer has gone out of business.
- Digital Threads for Enabling Patient Care (Hazim El-Mounayri, IUPUI): Wireless signals and other technology enhancements are making it possible to integrate various forms of medical data through a single system – rather than rely on existing technologies that measure, process or store such information using several independent systems.
- Emergent Properties in Cybersecurity (Steve Meyers, Indiana University): “Unplanned interactions” in online and wireless environments can trigger massive service disruptions and pose a danger to the public. Researchers like Meyers hope to prevent such events, in part by being able to anticipate where such interactions may potentially occur. As an example, Meyers described a scenario in which an adversary might hack into a driver-safety service such as OnStar and use services intended to help customers against them instead. If hackers somehow accessed OnStar’s vehicle shutoff command, “you could stop-up Manhattan pretty quick,” Meyers said.
- Enhanced Airman Performance (Erica Johnson, Air Force Research Lab): No longer are “super soldiers” the domain of science fiction movies. With special operations forces, researchers have developed a “dashboard” that incorporates sleep, hydration, muscle output, heart rate, body temperature and calories burned to devise a “readiness score” for mission deployment. Additional research has revealed brain stimulation using tiny amounts of electricity can enhance mental activity, which can aid soldiers under extreme time pressure, stress or high mental workloads.
- High Speed Infrared Fusion for Night Vision Goggles (Ben Conley, NSWC Crane): By introducing higher image-refresh rates into night-vision goggles, researchers hope to gain tactical advantages over forces that use goggles with slower refresh rates.
- Hypersonic Flight (Jonathan Poggie, Purdue University): Flight at speeds exceeding five times the speed of sound (Mach 5) are “a critical national need.” Key applications include space operations (the use of “scramjets” can more than double the amount of payload rockets can carry into orbit) and improved military survivability through rapid-strike capabilities such as high-speed missiles. At present, Purdue is working to develop a Mach 7 wind tunnel to find ways to mitigate the extreme heat generated within materials that travel at such speeds.
- Improvements in Non-Destructive Printed Circuit Board Reverse Engineering (Darren Crum, NSWC Crane): Just as the military often needs parts for aircraft whose assembly lines have long been closed, the same applies to electronics and circuit boards as well. So how does one reverse engineer a circuit board with hundreds of components, thousands of interacting lines within dozens of silicon layers? It used to be a few microns at a time – a process that destroys the board itself. But new approaches involve the use of computer tomography (CT) scans, which leaves the board intact.
- Machine Learning (Mark Linderman, Air Force Research Lab): The need for machines to be able to self-derive different types of data is increasingly important as data sets grow ever bigger. Scientists have seen considerable success in getting machines to achieve this using data labeled with “what you expect the answer to be,” but scientists are increasingly working with data that “is not exact, but similar” to labeled data in an effort to fine-tune the process.
- Pulsed Laser Surface Processing (Steve Seghi, NSWC Crane): Naval equipment is constantly exposed to corrosion, so coating is important. Traditional methods have involved hazardous materials that are used to prepare surfaces for bonding and coating – materials that are expensive to buy, apply, use and store. But new approaches that involve a pulsed laser blast for as little as a femtosecond – one quadrillionth of a second – have produced similar (or improved) surface textures compared to the old process.
- Science Gateways to Support NSWC Crane Grand Challenges (Marlon Pierce, Indiana University): Pierce leads IU’s Science Gateways Group – a group of 10 researchers who range from masters students to Ph.Ds – who are building an open source software platform to support new areas of computational science. Applications could be applied to such disciplines as engineering, chemistry or atmospheric modeling in terms of increased productivity, repeatability in research testing and increased sharing of research results.
- Trusted Microelectronics (Matt Gadlage, NSWC Crane): As the reliability of some foreign-made microelectronics encounters increased scrutiny, a lab known as SPECTRA has been established at NSWC Crane that seeks to collaborate with partners to take the most advanced electronics available and see what can be learned from them. Among many activities, the lab conducts stress tests to see if certain components are counterfeit and seeks to better understand what causes microelectronics to fail.
Following lunch and early afternoon breakout sessions focused on four tracks — information technology/cybersecurity, Department of Defense technologies, advanced manufacturing and the life sciences/biomedical sectors — another group of scientists presented university-based research that may prove relevant to defense applications:
- Advances in Control Systems Cybersecurity (James Graham, University of Louisville): Graham is CEO of True Secure SCADA, a Goshen, Ky.-based company that has developed a security pre-processor that provides enhanced authentication, role-based access control and other security features at a field access point. The system works as an “alarm system” or “yard dog” against potential hackers and, according to Graham, would have prevented a December 2015 cyberattack against electricity systems in the Ukraine that left more than 230,000 people without power.
- Characterization of ABS-HOPE Blended Virgin Filaments (Laura Luther, IUPUI-NSWC Crane): Luther and colleagues are testing new blends of plastic as well as determining the suitability of certain types of plastic blends for use in 3D printing.
- Design of Highly Flexible and Elastic Electronic Sustrates Using Additive Manufacturing (Jong Ryu, IUPUI): Ryu produces bendable sensors with a 3D printer that can supply data obtained in unique environments such high-impact “bunker busting” missiles, aircraft wings (to determine stress concentrations) or even pilots exposed to excessive G forces.
- Exploring Technology and Human Sensors to Monitor PTSD (Katherine Connelly, Indiana University): In many cases, symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder do not occur immediately after the event and can take months or longer to surface. In concert with researchers at Georgia Tech, Connelly is developing a cell phone app designed for use outside clinical settings to look for early symptoms of PTSD such as poor sleep quality, visualizations, agitation and withdrawal.
- Feasible Idea Test (FIT) (Jack Smothers, University of Southern Indiana): With new products facing an 80 to 90 percent failure rate upon reaching the market, many companies and entrepreneurs are anxious to know why some good ideas never realize success. Through matrices that calculate market, technical and business feasibility, FIT not only predicts how customers will react to new products, but can recommend a focus on other markets that companies or entrepreneurs may not have initially considered.
- Fusing Hard and Soft Information (Sandra Kuebler, Indiana University): Working with colleagues at the University of Miami, Kuebler focuses on fusing data from physical sensors (hard data) with that from human observers (soft data), with Keubler specializing in soft data. Applications can range from environmental monitoring and science to emergency response and military situational awareness.
- Identifying Fibroblast Subpopulations and Signaling Modules that Facilitate 3DP-Based Regeneration of Specialized Skin (John Foley, Indiana University): Skin located in certain parts of the body – such as the lips, palms, soles and other regions – have the unique ability to avoid scarring when damaged, yet do not grow back if removed entirely. Foley is studying how to create and grow such specialized skin and ultimately, see if it can be used effectively in areas where prostheses can irritate and damage skin.
- Knowledge Discovery and Web Mining Lab (Olfa Nasraoui, University of Louisville): Another machine learning project, this endeavor examines how advanced specialized algorithms can be used in different ways to help computers more efficiently and accurately sift through various forms of data.
- Lightweight Structure Design with Additive Manufacturing (Li Yang, University of Louisville): Although lightweight structures can be effectively made with 3D printing, durability and performance can be a problem. To reduce such instances, Li is “taking a step back” in the process by taking full control of the geometry and materials used.
- Multi-Scale, Multi-Physics Models for Metal-Based Additive Manufacturing Processes (Jing Zhang, IUPUI): Durability and performance can be a problem in metal-based 3D manufacturing as well, with failure rates of at least 10 to 20 percent. Through a series of atomistic, mesoscale and macroscale perspectives, Jing is examining such areas as materials diffusion, powder disposition, laser heating, impurities and other factors to better predict materials behavior.
- Radiation Effects in Advanced Micro-Nano Fabricated Devices (Shamus McNamara, University of Louisville): Teaming with colleagues at Vanderbilt University, McNamara is designing, fabricating and exposing micro- and nano-devices to radiation to determine the effects. In one example, it was shown how the resonant frequency of one such device shifted significantly following exposure to X-rays.
- Socially Assistive Robots in Patient-Centered Eldercare (Selma Sabanovic, Indiana University): Research has shown that socially assistive robots can help produce better physiological – and sometimes social outcomes – in the lab. How they work in the “real world” is still being determined. Sabanovic noted that how such machines (in this case, a robotic seal) are initially presented to the patient is crucial to their long-term success. Applications under study include social mediation such as keeping patients calm at key moments and use in the homes of older adults who may be depressed.
- Wireless Motion Tracking System (Arthur Chlebowski, University of Southern Indiana): Repetitive stress occurs in one-third of all computer users and caused more than $1.8 billion in health care spending last year. Similar problems exist in manufacturing environments, but confined or active workspaces make it impractical for traditional types of stress tests. To address this dilemma, Chlebowski is developing a system of sensors – from fingers to full-body – that can wirelessly record such stress over an entire eight-hour shift.
For now, development of an Applied Research Institute near Naval Surface Warfare Center Crane is in its early stages, as military, academic and industry partners lay the groundwork for the collaborative facility funded by a $16.2 million grant from Lilly Endowment Inc.
Once it is up and running, however, the institute’s ambitions are not to be just another run-of-the-mill research center – nor does it plan to merely replicate the success of other collaborative research efforts in cities such as Dayton, Ohio; Huntsville, Ala.; Knoxville, Tenn.; or Raleigh, N.C.
“We want to take it to the next level. We’ll hear about the ARI model being adopted in other states,” ARI project adviser Ian Steff told attendees of NSWC Crane’s 2016 Innovation Crossover conference Thursday. “We have to make sure this is a nationally recognized institute, drawing not just from Indiana efforts, but attracting national and global players.”
Steff, who also serves as the state of Indiana’s chief innovation officer and senior adviser for nanotechnology and advanced manufacturing, was one of two keynote speakers featured during the conference’s second day at the Bloomington/Monroe County Convention Center. At least 230 people attended the conference’s opening day, with about 300 people signing up for the event.
The other was Walter Jones, executive director of the Office of Naval Research. Both gave general overviews of their respective organizations and how each stands poised to work with academic partners such as Indiana University, as well as industrial partners such as Eli Lilly & Co., Rolls-Royce Corp., Cook Group Inc., and General Electric Aviation among others.
As the science and technology provider for the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps, the Office of Naval Research – a parent organization of NSWC Crane – collaborates with more than 1,000 partners and employs more than 4,000 people at 23 locations and five field offices, including one in Chicago, Jones said. With an annual budget of about $3 billion, the office’s mission pivots on three key words – discover, develop and deliver.
“We discover new knowledge by funding basic research, we develop those ideas and put them into systems that may one day find their way into the Navy and we deliver those products with the ultimate goal of providing a technological advantage for the Navy and the Marine Corps,” Jones said.
To achieve those ends, ONR works to balance a “portfolio” of near-term, mid-term and long-term investments in potential defense systems, Jones said.
About half of those projects are basic discovery and innovation, with timelines of 5 to 20 years or more for potential entry into service. The next largest block, about 30 percent of ONR projects, are “technology pull” items, which typically require 2-4 years of development.
“Those are projects where the customer asks: ‘Can you do this for me,’” Jones said.
The third largest block – about 12 percent of ONR’s portfolio – is known as “technology push” projects, which take about 4 to 8 years before possible deployment.
“These involve a fair amount of risk – items such as rail guns or lasers that are high risk, but high payoff if they work,” Jones said. “These tend to be high-dollar items. This involves a lot of what DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) does, but we have a lot less money.”
The smallest block, about 8 percent of projects, are “quick reaction” items that typically take 1-2 years to implement. Jones described such projects as “items where forces out in the field see gaps that we can quickly solve.”
High-priority technologies for the Navy and Marines include directed-energy weapons such as lasers and rail guns; cybersecurity and cyberwarfare; electromagnetic warfare; unmanned aerial, undersea and surface systems; and synthetic biology – a relatively new regime that includes environmental surveillance, warfighter enhancement and microbial electronics.
“Synthetic biology is really in its infancy – a lot of areas where we’re just beginning to scratch the surface,” Jones said.
University scientists who are interested in collaborative projects with the military can take part in a number of programs offered through ONR or the National Science Foundation, Jones said. They include:
- Basic research programs executed by ONR officers;
- Defense University Research Instrumentation Program (DURIP): Funds used for acquiring major equipment to aid current research to develop new capabilities to support Department of Defense research;
- Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative (MURI): Teams of researchers who investigate high-priority topics that involve more than one technical discipline;
- Young Investigator Program (YIP): Identify and support academic scientists and engineers who occupy tenure-track positions;
- Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE): Honors and supports extraordinary achievements of young professionals at the outset of their independent research careers in science and technology.
Having served on faculties at the University of Florida, University of Tennessee and Clemson University, Jones said he has an appreciation of “sticking points” that can emerge between government and academia, yet feels confident that the Applied Research Institute can realize success.
“With academics, of course, the emphasis is publishing papers. But that’s not what our customers are interested in,” Jones said. “Each side is going to have to bend a bit. But you have great facilities, bright young people … a lot of basic elements already are in place. There will be fits and starts. But you will get there.”
Steff, whose office oversees a $1 billion statewide innovation and entrepreneurship initiative announced by former governor and current vice presidential candidate Mike Pence earlier this year, said the Applied Research Institute will look to take advantage of “emerging synergies” between NSWC Crane and university-based research in four key areas:
- Multispectral sensor data
- High-density energy storage
- Advanced materials science
- Microelectronics technology and security
“These areas have picked up momentum quickly and there has been so much convergence in research already that the lines are becoming non-distinct. Yet nobody has a monopoly in any of these areas,” Steff said.
“What we will do is use existing infrastructure at Crane, at WestGate@Crane Technology Park, at Indiana University and Purdue University and tap into these resources through ARI. We have done a survey of the existing infrastructure at Crane, IU and Purdue and we will be able to make use of it on day one of ARI’s operation.”
So far as its academic partners are concerned, the Applied Research Institute already shows signs of becoming a transformative force, according to a panel of representatives from Indiana University, Purdue University and the University of Southern Indiana.
Unlike cultures seen in many other states, Indiana seems to lack many barriers that often prevent such collaboration between institutions of higher learning, said Linda Bennett, president of the University of Southern Indiana.
“There are not many states where you would three institutions such as ours, sitting up here on the same stage, eagerly looking forward to working together,” Bennett said.
Brad Wheeler, chief information officer and vice president of information technology for Indiana University, echoed such sentiments.
“Collaboration seems a little difficult sometimes. Sometimes people think there’s some big chasm to cross or some big plan that needs to be implemented. But Indiana University doesn’t feel this way at all,” Wheeler said. “The best hope for our state’s bright and enterprising students is to have homegrown opportunities with homegrown industries. That’s a promise that ARI provides and I think all of us realize that.”
Along with its economic prospects, the Applied Research Institute could also — over time — serve as an example for how future collaborations are achieved, said Dan Hasler, president and CEO of the Purdue Research Foundation.
“If you look at places like Palo Alto, Calif., or Massachusetts that are considered entrepreneurial centers, their collaborators seem to constantly collide with one another, almost as soon as they walk out the front door,” Hasler said. “Here in Indiana, our doors are not nearly as close together. While we lack that sort of proximity, efforts like ARI can serve as a place that brings our doors closer together.”