NSRDEC: Helping the Soldier, helping the economy

Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center developed the Ballistic Combat Shirt with Protective Force LLC. NSRDEC also worked with the U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine at Natick to ensure that warfighters wouldn't become too hot while wearing the shirt. Protective Force has already commercialized the product so it can be sold to law enforcement. | U.S. Army photo by David Kamm, NSRDEC

NATICK, Mass. — The Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center boosts the nation’s economy with the use of license agreements to facilitate commercial access to these technologies and provide cutting-edge technologies to the nation’s Warfighters. NSRDEC develops food, clothing and protective technologies for the Warfighter and is the home for innovators making precision aerial resupply possible

TechLink, a Department of Defense funded technology transfer center at Montana State University, conducted an economic impact study in collaboration with the Business Research Division of the Leeds School of Business at the University of Colorado Boulder. The resulting report, entitled National Economic Impacts from DOD License Agreements 2000-2014, reveals the economic contribution made by DOD entities, including NSRDEC, through technology licensing.

According to the report, U.S. government agencies have a federal legislative mandate to transfer their inventions to the private sector whenever possible in order to benefit the public and the nation’s economy. Patent license agreements are used to transfer these inventions to industry and enable private industry to develop and sell new products and services using these inventions.

“What we studied was just a small part of the total impact of NSRDEC on the local economy,” said Dr. Will Swearingen, a Certified Licensing Professional and executive director of TechLink. “The study looked at the outcomes and impacts of the license agreements for the patented inventions at NSRDEC that were successfully converted into [commercially available] products.”

The researchers contacted the companies with the license agreements and asked them about their sales of new products licensed from NSRDEC or derived from licensed technologies. The total sales of patented inventions that were the subject of NSRDEC license agreements active during the 2000-2014 period amounted to $971 million; nearly $1 billion.

“With the economic multipliers, the total economic impact from those license agreements was around $2.8 billion, which supported around 15,300 jobs with an average wage of $54,000,” said Swearingen.

“We’re here because our mission is to help the Warfighter,” said Jeff DiTullio, Business Development team lead at NSRDEC. “We do that not just through R&D [research and development] collaborations but also through licensing. Licensing puts technologies into the hands of commercial entities that can then go out and provide the public the benefit of DOD research and development by providing a product. It also provides opportunities for DOD to procure these products as Commercial Off-The-Shelf items, which is normally faster and less expensive than other means of procurement.”

“NSRDEC’s location in New England allows for numerous critical technology producing opportunities with academia and industry,” added Douglas Tamilio, director of NSRDEC. “These technologies, not only add capability to our nation’s Warfighters, but also have significant impact on the local economy.”

In addition to helping the local economy, NSRDEC’s research and development efforts with academia and private industry have led to groundbreaking developments in textiles, protective clothing, shelters, food, food packaging and food processing. These inventions have military applications but have benefited emergency responders, NASA astronauts and the average consumer.

One recent NSRDEC success story is the Ballistic Combat Shirt. NSRDEC developed the protective clothing item with Protective Force LLC. NSRDEC also worked with the U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine at Natick to ensure that Warfighters would not become too hot while wearing the shirt. Protective Force has already commercialized the product so it can be sold to law enforcement.

“The partnerships benefit the Warfighter in a couple of different ways,” said DiTullio. “When we have an R&D partnership, those relationships allow us to leverage our capabilities in ways that actually create a force multiplier by partnering with a company that shares common objectives and where we can meet those objectives better, cheaper, faster by working together than by working alone.

“In any case where it is a dual-use technology where the government might license the technology for commercial use but also procure it for government purposes, those commercial sales and economies of scale help bring down the cost of the government purchases.”

He added, “The instances that are really rewarding are when we can take a technology and put it into the hands of a commercial entity, see them make a product that consumers can buy, that the government can also procure for the benefit of Soldiers.”

“In terms of the public value of Natick R&D,” said Swearingen, “I think you can say that Natick is a national engine of innovation, and that its innovations and inventions not only support the U.S. military but have also contributed to the advancement of entire industries, such as food processing.”

The U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center 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 for 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 Material Command.

By Jane Benson, NSRDEC Public Affairs