NEWS | Feb. 23, 2021

NSWC Crane uses “microgrants” to strengthen collaborative research with academia

By Sarah K. Miller, NSWC Crane Corporate Communications

CRANE, Ind. – Naval Surface Warfare Center, Crane Division (NSWC Crane) uses microgrants to develop its workforce, increase collaboration with academia across the country, and bolster research.

Microgrants are a small amount of funds granted to an external partner for impact-oriented research and development (R&D) toward NSWC Crane’s mission areas. Crane does this by providing funds externally for its research initiatives, capitalizing on academic innovators, and connecting them to other Department of Defense (DoD) science and technology (S&T) sponsors.

Crane’s use of microgrants over the past several years may be part of a noteworthy shift in how the organization is conducting research – which has contributed to creating more advanced solutions for the warfighter.

Dr. Jonathan Dilger, the Director of Research at NSWC Crane, says that sending requests for proposals to academia was something Crane has done for a decade. This past fiscal year (FY2020), Crane received not only a record number of proposals from academic institutions, but also received proposals from diverse universities from different parts of the country.

“Last year, we had an overwhelming response that wasn’t just from regional institutions; there was a tremendous number submitted from across the US,” says Dr. Dilger. “Most are top-tier in their field.”

Dr. Dilger says that by capitalizing on the brainpower and unique experiences of the workforce’s expertise, research becomes additionally robust for the end user.

“We are getting more results that are exciting and scientifically interesting for our customers,” says Dr. Dilger. “There’re also more opportunities for continuation of research down the road.”

According to the National Defense Strategy, cultivating workforce talent is a critical component to building a increased lethal force. “A modern, agile, information-advantaged Department requires a motivated, diverse, and highly skilled civilian workforce.” Workforce development includes partnerships with academia. It mentions, “the Department will also continue to explore streamlined, non-traditional pathways to bring critical skills into service, expanding access to outside expertise, and devising new public-private partnerships to work with small companies, start-ups, and universities.”

The National Defense Strategy also notes, “the security environment is also affected by rapid technological advancements and the changing character of war.” It lists “new technologies include advanced computing, ‘big data’ analytics, artificial intelligence, autonomy, robotics, directed energy, hypersonics, and biotechnology—the very technologies that ensure we will be able to fight and win the wars of the future.”

The four microgrant programs awarded for FY2020 covered several of these critical areas, including resilient quantum computing, machine learning and sensor fusion, modeling and simulation, and electromagnetic interface (EMI) protection.

“All of these research areas are niche areas specific to the expertise of Crane, and we are shaping the research landscape by making use of microgrants and partnerships with academia. In fact, one of these microgrant awards provided early research results that contributed to a follow-on award from the Office of Naval Research Discovery & Invention Program.  We were excited to see our seeded research extended directly by our partners at ONR,” says Dr. Dilger.

Dr. Dilger says these partnerships over the years have connected Crane closely with academia and that stronger partnerships with academia create better solutions for the end-user.

“When we engage with more partners, we are connected for future problem sets and research. Ultimately, we are observing change in the culture at Crane that benefits our workforce, research, and partnerships creating better solutions for the warfighter.”

Naval Surface Warfare Center, Crane Division is interested in receiving proposals for the following Basic Research Opportunity Areas – learn more at this link:

About NSWC Crane

NSWC Crane is a naval laboratory and a field activity of Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) with mission areas in Expeditionary Warfare, Strategic Missions and Electronic Warfare. The warfare center is responsible for multi-domain, multi- spectral, full life cycle support of technologies and systems enhancing capability to today's Warfighter.

Join Our Team! NAVSEA employs a diverse, highly trained, educated, and skilled workforce - from students and entry level employees to experienced professionals and individuals with disabilities. We support today's sophisticated Navy and Marine Corps ships, aircraft, weapon systems and computer systems. We are continuously looking for engineers, scientists, IT and cyber specialists, as well as trade and other support professionals to ensure the U.S. Navy can protect and defend America. Please contact NSWC Crane Human Resources at