ADELPHI, Md. -- The Federal Laboratory Consortium, which annually recognizes federal laboratories and their industry partners for outstanding technology achievements, selected the U.S. Army’s corporate research laboratory for its 2021 Technology Transfer Innovation Award.
The U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command, known as DEVCOM, Army Research Laboratory and the DEVCOM Soldier Center, jointly received the award on April 8 for the development of a suite of tools that will allow for early assessment of potential applications for new scientific and technological discoveries.
ARL, Soldier Center, small businesses, academia and Worcester Polytechnic Institute ROTC cadets collaborated on the project.
“The value of diversification took on many different forms for this effort,” said Dr. David Darkow, DEVCOM Soldier Center. “ARL brought a unique and operationally impactful component technology that was the centerpiece of the system.”
The development of the Very Early Product Realization, known as VEPR, brings benefits to the lab and its researchers.
“As ARL embraces its new mission of operationalizing science for transformational overmatch, we have an opportunity to not only conduct world class research, but also, innovate the ways we transition that research into hands of the warfighter faster and better,” said DEVCOM ARL engineer Dr. Shawn Walsh. “ARL and Soldier Center competed with and became exemplars for over 300 other federal laboratories.”
Researchers developed the VEPR technology transfer tool suite to optimize the value proposition and competitive product potential of new discoveries early on.
The suite has a technology transition pathway matrix to trace the maturation of the discovery into a practical and scalable system. Some of these tools are used in lean startup businesses and Hacking for Defense.
A unique feature of the tool suite was the focus on the neglected and crucial gap between basic and applied research.
The tool suite was demonstrated using ARL’s nanogalvanic alloy discovery. “The ability to generate hydrogen from a nontoxic reaction of the new alloy and water is simply an observable phenomenon” Walsh said. “By capturing the hydrogen and powering a light source, warfighters were able to immediately and intuitively grasp the potential impact of the discovery. Similarly, working with Soldier Center allowed us to identify system integration issues early to reduce the risk of productizing the discovery into a practical power source.”
Researchers said the new approach creates a team of teams, enabling radically earlier collaboration between diverse scientists, engineers and warfighters.
“We adapted a minimum viable product approach to demonstrate an ARL discovery to experienced warfighters,” Walsh said. “These warfighters were able to provide us with additional applications and uses we did not think of. Instead of locking us into requirements that do not properly exploit the full potential of the new discovery, this early feedback helps us vector towards application space that better exploits the unique attributes of the new discovery.”
FLC is a nationwide network of federal laboratories that provides a forum to develop strategies and opportunities to help transfer technologies from these laboratories into commercial products for the global marketplace and includes a prestigious range of organizations, from the National Institutes of Health to Sandia National Laboratories to NASA.
Members of the award-winning team: Dr. David Darkow, DEVCOM SC, Dr. Kristopher Darling, DEVCOM ARL, Paul Dowd, Creative Engineering, Dr. Anit Giri, DEVCOM ARL, Lt. Col. Adam Heppe, Military Science – Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Al LeCounte, Sherpa 6, Wendy Leonard, DEVCOM ARL, Anthony Roberts, DEVCOM ARL, Spencer Tess, Army ROTC Cadet and WPI student, Dr. Shawn Walsh, DEVCOM ARL.
DEVCOM Army Research Laboratory is an element of the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command. As the Army’s corporate research laboratory, ARL is operationalizing science to achieve transformational overmatch. Through collaboration across the command’s core technical competencies, DEVCOM leads in the discovery, development and delivery of the technology-based capabilities required to make Soldiers more successful at winning the nation’s wars and come home safely. DEVCOM is a major subordinate command of the Army Futures Command.