ADELPHI, Md. (Nov. 17, 2016) -- Army scientists and engineers began a two-day effort to expand collaboration with industry, academia and other government institutions with an open house at the U.S. Army Research Laboratory.

More than 500 potential partners toured facilities outside Washington, D.C., met with Army researchers and explored opportunities through the lab's Open Campus Initiative.

By opening its doors to fresh ideas and new partnerships, officials said, the Open Campus business model brings Army researchers into close contact with civilian counterparts working in science and technology.

"I think this morning will be a great opportunity for you to understand what we're thinking about for the future of S&T," said acting ARL Director Dr. Philip Perconti. "This is our third Open Campus Open House. It's really pleasing that you have come to learn about collaboration and the research that we do in support of the Soldier."

Dr. Melissa L. Flagg, deputy assistant Secretary of Defense for Research, told visitors in a keynote address that collaborative efforts serve the national interest.

"I feel so deeply that the Army has leaned so far forward," she said. "They've been so willing to take the risk of inviting people in when it's simply easier to say, 'You don't have a badge. You don't get through the gate.'"

Flagg said ARL Open Campus is an opportunity to become more connected.

"It is a risk and I think respecting that and understanding that is really important as we go into these partnerships and relationships, but I also feel like the Army is likely to see the most rewards over the next decade because they have fundamentally reshaped how they are willing to work with you," Flagg said.

Officials said the Open Campus concept is not a funding opportunity for partners.

"The global academic community, industry, small businesses and other government laboratories benefit from this engagement through collaboration with ARL's specialized research staff and unique technical facilities," Perconti said.

Maj. Gen. Cedric T. Wins, commanding general of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command told visitors about Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Milley's vision for the future.

"He said readiness of the force is the number one priority," Wins said. "And then getting ourselves ready in terms of our future force is his second priority."

Wins praised Army researchers for their foundational role in the area of technology.

"You set the foundation for all the research, development and engineering centers to take on what you all are developing for the Soldier, to protect, empower and to unburden the Soldier," he said. "The task of the United States Army is certainly like no other and it is to win in an unforgiving crucible of ground combat. As we send our Soldiers into harm's way, we want to make sure they are the best trained, that they're the best equipped, and we don't want to send our Soldiers into a fair fight. You all are extremely important in that effort because of what you do and what you provide."

Representatives from academia and industry also spoke at the morning's first gathering.

"You are now trying to open up doors and trying to reduce the number of signatures to get things done," said Dr. Robie Samanta Roy, vice president of technology and innovation for Lockheed Martin. "You want to make sure you're strategically located in these ecosystems where you can draw upon local universities, small businesses and people who come within your gates."

Over the two-day open house, Army scientists and engineers showcased potential areas of collaboration where outside researchers can work side-by-side at the lab, bring Army researchers to their institutions to communicate a perspective on research conducted in federal laboratories, and become part of the broader DOD network.

"This is exciting," Flagg said. "This is an opportunity for us to come together and to fundamentally rethink the problems. I started realizing that we need to be more connected, that the world is changing. We need to be more connected globally. We need to be more connected to our own S&T ecosystems, industry and more broadly across government."

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The U.S. Army Research Laboratory is part of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, which has the mission to provide innovative research, development and engineering to produce capabilities that provide decisive overmatch to the Army against the complexities of the current and future operating environments in support of the joint warfighter and the nation. RDECOM is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Materiel Command.