ARL forges new partnerships in nation’s midsection with the University of Chicago, establishes ARL Central regional hub

U.S. Army Research Laboratory Director Dr. Philip Perconti tells government and academic partners that collaboration will solve tough challenges for the Army during a ceremony launching ARL Central in Chicago Nov. 10, 2017. | U.S. Army photo by David McNally, ARL

The U.S. Army Research Laboratory and the University of Chicago officially cut the ribbon for ARL Central at the University’s Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, Nov. 10.

The vision of the lab is to broaden its access to regional technology innovation hubs by establishing extended campuses across the United States. Like ARL West, established with its headquarters at the University of Southern California in April 2016, and ARL South, established with its headquarters at the University of Texas at Austin as its regional hub earlier this year, ARL’s latest facility–ARL Central–will leverage regional expertise and facilities throughout the central region to accelerate discovery, innovation and transition of science and technology.

The laboratory’s central hub is located at the University of Chicago and includes other regional academic institutions to include Northwestern University, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, University of Illinois at Chicago, Purdue University, University of Wisconsin; area laboratories–Argonne National Laboratory and Rock Island Arsenal; and local industry.

U.S. Army and Army Research Laboratory leaders ceremoniously cut a ribbon opening ARL Central at the University of Chicago alongside university and Chicago leaders, Nov. 10, 2017. The ribbon-cutting, attended by Acting Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy, RDECOM Commander Maj. Gen. Cedric Wins, and ARL Director Dr. Philip Perconti, commemorated partnerships with regional universities.
ARL Central gives ARL a physical presence in Chicago and surrounding areas, enhancing ARL’s growing global science and technology ecosystem. | U.S. Army photo

“Four years ago ARL started this cultural shift in how we do business in the Army research and development community and so today’s ribbon cutting has been made possible by their efforts and our efforts as leaders in the Army and Congress as well as the support of university system to collaborate on this particular endeavor,” said Maj. Gen. Cedric T. Wins, commanding general, U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command.

“Since we started inviting existing and potential partners from across academia, industry and other governmental agencies to explore these opportunities, we’ve begun to do this type of innovation across the United States, starting with Open Campus facilities that have begun to spread from not only Maryland, but to Florida, to Texas, to California and now here in Illinois,” Wins said. “Our aim and our expectation is that the Open Campus arrangement will lead to greater discovery and innovation — and we’re already seeing those results.”

Wins said that through collaboration the Army will become more innovative to deliver the right type of technology that leads to capability for the American Soldier.

“American Soldiers and their joint partners will face many challenges in the future and we can’t predict what those challenges will be,” he said. “We need to get the best ideas and the best technology from across the nation to fuel an Army through science and technology that will shape them and provide the capabilities that Soldiers need.”

Wins said we need organizations and partnerships that are flexible and agile enough to identify the emerging threats across multiple disciplines and multiple domains and then develop those capabilities in a way that will protect life and limb of our Soldiers and give them the added lethality that they may need in any fight.

“We’re tackling these challenges through RDECOM with the institutional realignment that will make us more transparent to leaders and more responsive to our partners and more responsible to ultimate stakeholder — the American Soldier,” Wins said.

Dr. Philip Perconti, ARL Director said he is pleased to formalize the partnership on Veterans Day and thanked the service members and particularly those who are no longer with us.

“General Wins mentioned what we consider in ARL a model that we call Open Campus. We launched it because we knew we had to revolutionize the way defense laboratories conducted business,” Perconti said. “No longer could we stay within our silos. We recognized that the complexity of the world, the complexity of the fight that this country is engaged in needed us to get beyond our walls and our own isolation.

“So we embarked on this endeavor to really reach out to the community, the research and technology community across the country and ARL Central represents the latest instantiation of that. It’s really bring partners together to collaborate on tough challenges for the Army in an environment that’s transparent and one that enhances scientific understanding for the benefit of all who participate.

John Flavin, associate vice president for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, University of Chicago/Polsky Center said the center drives the creation of new businesses and partnerships at the University of Chicago and on Chicago’s Southside. He said his team is very excited to work with the entire ARL team and with all the esteemed university partners across the Midwest region.

“This exciting partnership will bring together and catalyze many multidisciplinary collaborators from several top research institutions from around the Midwest and around the world for that matter — and industrial players in our region to develop new products and technologies,” Flavin said. “We are thrilled that so many of our leaders and the leaders of these research institutions are joining us here today in this room to celebrate with us.”

Dr. Eric Isaacs, executive vice president for Research, Innovation and National Laboratories, University of Chicago reverberated Flavin’s comments.

“Today we’re really pleased to celebrate the establishment of ARL Central and the partnership that will create new possibilities for innovative research, for accelerating venture creation and for economic development,” Isaacs said.

“Our pursuit of solutions-oriented research and ventures will gain even more momentum with the partnership we are celebrating here today. ARL Central builds on a series of partnerships that are helping to establish the Southside as a leading innovation ecosystem in Chicago and the region and the state.”

Rahm Emanuel, Mayor of Chicago, said ARL Central is the kind of research entity that brings some of the greatest universities in the world to one location. Professors and entrepreneurs can work together solving problems in the same location, then commercializing the solutions.

“I want to welcome you to the city of Chicago and look forward to a long working relationship together and thank the Army and the armed forces for also putting their resources here behind this endeavor,” Emanuel said. “This is a tremendous opportunity for the city of Chicago, it’s a tremendous opportunity for the Southside of Chicago, and it’s a tremendous opportunity to actually start to address some very serious challenges and take those challenges and make them opportunities and new businesses and new ventures.”

Ryan McCarthy, acting Secretary of the Army, said, “It is exciting to be around the best and brightest minds our country has to offer — young entrepreneurs, many of which are veterans, combat veterans at that, so it was a very intellectually awe-inspiring day.

He said the way ARL is structuring the Midwest research lab is very unique in that the way we’re going to be very collaborative and bring all of the academic institutions to bear, so exciting times ahead and it’ll be a force multiplier for RDECOM as we proceed.

“The great advantage of ARL Central is that if you drew a 200-mile radius around Chicago — Purdue, Northwestern, University of Wisconsin, University of Illinois-Champaign, I mean it is unbelievable, the number of world-class academic institutions that are right here,” said McCarthy. “It’s in the middle of the country. It’s easy to get to. So, it was a pretty easy choice for us, along with a great history of proven results. It made it very easy for the Army to come to this conclusion. It’s a national security issue and the more folks who get involved and help us along this process we know we’ll maintain the technological advantages we need to keep our country safe for decades to come.”

The Honorable Richard (Dick) Durbin, U.S. Senator for Illinois said ARL Central is an ideal fit for Chicago.

“When I met with Secretary McCarthy earlier this year, I highlighted Chicago’s great support for the military and high-quality research institutions. I’m proud that the U.S. Army agreed that our city is an ideal fit for ARL Central,” Durbin said. “I have long been concerned with the state of our federal investment in research and development. This partnership will be a tremendous boost to Chicago and based on my experience as Vice Chairman of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, I can say this will be a boost to the entire nation.”

Dr. Mark Tschopp, ARL Central’s acting regional director said through collaboration the lab will increase research in critical areas for the Army such as materials science, manufacturing, mechanics, propulsion science and computation/information science; all essential scientific building blocks for the Army’s strategic priorities.

“Science and technology is changing so quickly around the world that the Army needs to modernize to supply innovative solutions and rapid capabilities that can address the Army’s strategic priorities,” Tschopp said. “ARL Central is part of the solution by co-locating ARL’s researchers with the technical expertise and unique facilities of our partners in the greater Chicago region. Hiring top talent in the region to work in close proximity with our partners will result in open exchange of ideas, driving innovation and accelerating capabilities for the good of the Army.”

Purdue University and Northwestern University are looking forward to the partnerships with the lab and with the other regional partners.

“Purdue launched the Institute for Global Security and Defense Innovation last year to forge thriving partnerships between the DOD and research universities,” said Daniel DeLaurentis, director of i-GSDI in Discovery Park and Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics at Purdue. “With the rapid pace of technological change, its global diffusion and evolving international threats, partnerships like ARL Central are critical to achieve a ‘continuous offset’ in U.S. defense capabilities.”

“For generations Northwestern has advanced our country and our military with research products and breakthroughs that range from the development of 100-octane gasoline that helped win World War II to discoveries of new materials that improve the effectiveness of our present-day troops,” said Jay Walsh, Northwestern University’s vice president of research. “Northwestern’s highly rated engineering and science departments, as well as our more widely placed networks experts, welcome this great opportunity to continuing to work with the Army Research Laboratory, now in even stronger collaboration with our regional partners.”

Dr. Mitra Dutta, a distinguished professor and the vice chancellor for research at the University of Illinois at Chicago, worked 15 years at ARL before her appointment at UIC.

“UIC faculty are very interested in this partnership with ARL and we have much to offer,” Dutta said. “I am personally very pleased at this opportunity to work with the ARL and the other partner institutions.”

Argonne Laboratory was pleased to be a part of the ceremony and excited about the potentials ARL Central will bring to the region.

“Argonne congratulates the Army Research Lab on ARL Central and welcomes them to Chicago,” said Paul Kearns, Argonne Interim Laboratory Director.

“The lab and ARL have worked together for some time in select areas, and we believe ARL Central will be an excellent venue for continuing to grow our relationship focused on science in service of the nation.”

Perconti said this is a new partnership and it’s a really good one.

“It’s good for universities. It’s good for science. It’s good for the Research, Development and Engineering Command. It’s good for the Army Research Laboratory. It’s good for business. It’s good for small business partners. It’s good for the industrial base and it’s good for the United States Army. That’s really why we’re here,” Perconti said.

He said this new business model allows ARL to rapidly respond to constantly changing science and technology landscapes by leveraging expertise, facilities and innovation from our partners.

“We’re here to establish an ecosystem where we all have access to each other’s resources–so this model is really based on trust and it’s based on trust through proximity,” Perconti said. “We always begin this conversation with developing connections first, finding areas that will mutually benefit all of our partners. As I like to say, its friends first and then we’ll talk about money.

“Consider us your partner. This is really a collaborative effort that we’re after.”

 

By Joyce Conant, Army Research Laboratory