October 14, 2016
Bloomington, Ind. (October 14, 2016) -- Naval Surface Warfare Center, Crane Division (NSWC Crane) hosted close to 300 professionals from defense, industry and academia for the "Innovation Crossover: The Shape of Things to Come" conference on Wednesday and Thursday at the Bloomington Convention Center.
Through collaboration and open and honest conversation, the attendees walked away from the event with innovative ideas to both combat mutual technological challenges and foster regional economic growth.
"We're very pleased with the level of support and enthusiasm around the technology clusters," said Kyle Werner, NSWC Crane Applied Science Department Director. "The level of ideation and engaged participation is a clear indicator that the region has real potential for crossover innovation across the technology clusters."
Participants heard prominent keynote speeches from Dr. Chris Fall, White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, Dr. Walter Jones, Office of Naval Research (ONR), and Ian Steff, Applied Research Institute.
"I had no idea of the gem that exists in this part of the United States," Dr. Jones said of Indiana. "I had a blast. The best part was talking to all of these bright people. They are working on problems that are real and interesting. You seem to be having a great time at Crane, so keep up the good work."
Dr. Jones said ONR recognizes the importance of collaboration with industry and university, so much so that ONR decides what to focus on based on the needs of others.
"I like to joke that we don't do anything at ONR, we enable other people to do things," Dr. Jones said. "Each side has to bend a little bit. What's worked is a place that brings those sides together. If you have Crane as one of your partners, there won't be an issue with keeping the government involved. It's just a matter of bringing together the people and understanding each other's needs. There are no secret ingredients."
Dr. Fall centered his speech on the challenges of continued innovation in the areas of technology and economic growth, and how those challenges can be addressed through the collaboration of defense, industry and academia.
"I'm a policy guy. I think it's important that we take small steps forward in understanding the policy and how it affects us," Dr. Fall said. "Great on Crane for tech transfer. I think we could look at Crane as the model for tech transfer. You guys are way ahead in trying to tie this together. I think you have a great plan."
Steff, the Chief Innovation Officer for the state of Indiana, applauded NSWC Crane for its focus on innovation and collaboration, calling the event "a significant milestone".
"This was perfectly timed to serve as another catalyst in the formation of the Applied Research Institute," Steff said. "It serves as a further linkage between ARI and NSWC Crane's Innovation Ecosystem, and it highlights Crane's use of progressive partnerships to develop and deliver innovative solutions.
"We are huge fans of NSWC Crane. I can't tell you how proud we are to have them here. I couldn't speak more highly of their leaders. It's a great privilege to work with them."
Participants also had the opportunity to both listen to and interact with two panels of experts, one from the industrial sector and one from the academic sector. Wednesday's panel featured Dr. Matt Waninger, Cook Medical, Mr. Eric Matteson, General Electric (GE), and Dr. John Matlik, Rolls Royce.
Thursday's academic panel featured Dr. Linda Bennett, President of the University of Southern Indiana, Mr. Dan Hasler, President of the Purdue Research Foundation, and Dr. Brad Wheeler, Indiana Unversity's vice president of IT and chief information officer.
"There aren't too many states where people from three different universities can collaborate and work together," Dr. Bennett said. Dr. Bennett admitted that USI isn't a research institution, and isn't trying to be. Instead, the university takes a more pragmatic, hands-on approach, with the help of NSWC Crane.
"We're a fairly new school, and we were created with economic development in mind," she said. "To do that, we have to work across boundaries, bring people together across fields, and be able to reimagine the work you do every day. That can be challenging, but I think it was our partnership with Crane that helped us reimagine that."
The event was designed to foster collaboration on mutual technology challenges and regional economic growth, as well as to spark a wave of entrepreneurialism and innovative companies across the region, and create tech-based economic development.
The regional strategy is aimed at fostering new growth and capitalizing on existing assets for the industry clusters in southern Indiana with the greatest potential for growth and advancement, including Department of Defense Technologies, Advanced Manufacturing, IT/Cyber and Life Sciences/Biomedical.
Those goals were accomplished at the Innovation Crossover event not only through the keynote speeches and industry panels, but also through breakout sessions focused on coming up with specific ideas for innovation in their respective clusters.
Werner said he plans to have a report on some of those ideas sometime in the near future. Werner also said there will be a discussion about having similar events periodically in the future.
NSWC Crane worked with Indiana University, Purdue University, University of Southern Indiana, Cook Medical, Indiana Office of Defense Development and Radius Indiana to put on the event.
Planning for the collaborative event began in 2014 after a report funded by Eli Lilly Endowment Inc. and the Battelle Technology Partnership Practice that identified four different technology clusters that could be explored and improved upon.
NSWC Crane is a naval laboratory and a field activity of Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) with focus 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, all which provide a decisive advantage for our warfighters.