WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Dec. 15, 2014) -- In an effort to boost collaboration with academia and industry, the Army Research Laboratory hosted about 450 scientists from universities and private companies at its open house, Tuesday and Wednesday.
The event was part of the lab's "Open Campus" pilot program initiated earlier this year by Army Research Laboratory, referred to as ARL, Director Thomas Russell. It's a new way of doing business for the lab, designed to ultimately help maintain the Army's technological edge.
Open Campus is expected to be a "game changer" in bringing innovative technologies to earlier fruition, said Gabriel Camarillo, principal deputy to the assistant secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology.
Camarillo was among speakers at the open house. The event began with presentations at the Kirkland Center in SIlver Spring, Maryland, and included tours of the lab facilities nearby. Under the Open Campus concept, part of the Army's lab in Adelphi will be open on a regular basis to scientists without security clearances.
The concept will feature "layered access" to the Army's research facilities. Classified experiments will still be off limits to those without clearances, but less sensitive labs will be open for face-to-face collaboration.
"We now have the opportunity to truly partner with industry and academia in a novel and dynamic way," Camarillo said, "that will harness each other's innovative power and shape the way that we collaborate for many years to come."
"I'm frankly really excited about possibilities that are engendered by this project and I look forward to the results," he said.
"This is just the beginning," Russell told visiting researchers, Dec. 9. The ARL director revealed that the Open Campus pilot will expand next year to facilities at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, and eventually to White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico.
He hopes the program's open house will bring in about 200 new science and technology partnerships in fiscal year 2015.
"The Army is facing a dramatic decline in investment, particularly in [research and development]," Camarillo said. "We must embrace innovative ways in order to leverage skills in labs and our academic partners."
He believes the program will help attract the best and brightest from academia and industry.
"We're looking for entrepreneurs," Russell said. "We're looking for venture capitalists."
The program will involve licensing agreements with industry and educational partnerships. It will involve granting liberal sabbatical leave to lab employees, and also "entrepreneurial leave."
The program is designed to ease the way for lab employees to work in the private sector and eventually come back to the Army's laboratory system.
About 200 students and private researchers have collaborated with ARL so far under the Open Campus program, which actually began in April.
"A lot of them are students who I would not be able to recruit" if not for the new program, Russell said.
In the beginning, when Russell proposed the Open Campus concept to his higher headquarters -- the Army's Research, Development and Engineering Command and the Army Materiel Command -- it had to be tested. So the concept began with a pilot program that expands as it proves to be effective.
The lab is tracking Cooperative Research and Development Agreements along with peer-reviewed research reported in scientific journals as two measures of success. It's also tracking exchanges of scientists between ARL, universities and industry.
"Collaboration will become a lot easier when we can bring people in here," said Dr. Selena Russell, a researcher in ARL's dry lab, not at all related to the director. Her research is aimed at developing lighter and more powerful lithium batteries.
"You can't do science on an island," she said.
One person cannot build a car alone, she said, explaining that someone with the knowledge of engines is needed, an electrician is needed for the wiring harnesses and experts on the chassis and suspension are needed, for example. In the same way, various expertise is needed to bring any research project to fruition.
The open campus concept aims to make that collaboration easier and faster.