By Joyce M. Conant, ARL Public AffairsSeptember 6, 2017
ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. -- As part of the U.S. Army Research Laboratory's Open Campus initiative ARL South was established in 2016 at the University of Texas at Austin's J.J. Pickle Research Center.
This effort co-locates Army research and development personnel in south central United States with subject matter experts, technical centers and universities that are not currently well represented.
A key initiative at ARL South is to foster strong R&D partnerships and collaborative activities with regional universities, start-ups and established companies in Texas, as well as surrounding areas in New Mexico, Louisiana and Oklahoma. This effort will jointly fill technology gaps in biosciences, cyber security, energy and power, intelligent systems and materials, and manufacturing to meet the needs of the Army's future force.
"We are building partnerships in regions of the country where there is a critical mass of first class research talent and infrastructure," said Heidi Maupin, ARL South regional director.
"Austin and the entire state of Texas and surrounding areas has exactly that. This region has a strong reputation of innovation centers and successful start-up technical companies."
"Part of the brilliance of the ARL South concept is that the team has an opportunity to develop important concepts and grow programs that have high potential to the future Army," said Dr. Robert Hebner, director of UT's Center for Electromechanics.
"Historically, much government-funded research has been focused on individuals or small teams within a single discipline. The challenge is how to incentivize the formation of the right teams," Hebner added.
"If I put together a university golf team, I recruit the best golfers and help them get better individually. This is the approach the Army has used in much of its R&D funding. However, to have a good football or basketball team, the players not only have to be good individually, but they succeed or fail on how effectively they work together. This is the analogy for multidisciplinary research. We would not expect a football team to win a big game with no practice, but we expect research success when the researchers have not developed as a team," Hebner explained.
"The ARL South concept is not about bricks and mortar. It's about motivating key relationships that improve ARL's effectiveness in supporting future Warfighters," he added.
Universities historically see the government as a source of funding, and government researchers see the benefit of working together as long as it advances a project, according to Hebner.
"ARL South changes this process by recognizing that progress requires team work. With the right team, job security and positive impact, funding will follow," he said.
Hebner noted the importance of ARL establishing regional centers across the nation to enhance its S&T portfolio. He explained his recipe for success.
"This is the attitude we must have if the ARL regional organizations are going to meet their potential. Within both ARL and the participating universities, we need to recruit the best researchers and develop a better collaboration on important and interesting projects. Success will draw others to the program."
"The research teams make the progress, the breakthroughs and change the world. The task of the ARL and university leadership is to find, form and nurture the right teams. If we do that job well, success is inevitable."
The U.S. Army Research Laboratory, currently celebrating 25 years of excellence in Army science and technology, 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.