With a goal of providing smarter defense capabilities to the “boots on the ground,” West Virginia University has created the Center for Smart Defense to align innovations in academia and the commercial marketplace with defense needs.

“We are excited about the opportunity to connect leading researchers at West Virginia University with our partner institutions in academia and industry to meet the critical needs of the people ensuring our nation’s security,” said WVU President Gordon Gee.

The center, announced Thursday, will be led by former Department of Defense and defense industry senior executive Adam “Jay” Harrison.

“We will be building a smart defense consortium,” Harrison said. “What we’re doing at WVU is unique. Our focus is not necessarily to develop solutions from scratch, but to develop a community of stakeholders centered around WVU with the aim of efficiently applying existing commercial and academic innovations to defense.”

In essence, the Center will initiate research partnerships between WVU faculty, staff and students and outside organizations inside the Department of Defense and the broader national security community.

One example of the Center’s potential impact will be its research into advanced power generation systems. Harrison said the DoD, one of the largest energy consumers in the country, is looking for ways to reduce the energy dependence for forces in conflict environments. The Center could aid in that effort.

Additional examples could include research of fuel-efficient aircraft, unmanned systems, mobile devices and artificial intelligence.

“The role of the Center is to align innovations from outside the Department of Defense with opportunities inside the Department of Defense,” Harrison said. “We are seeking to give DoD more bang for its buck by partnering with entrepreneurs, innovators, and researchers in the extended WVU community to deliver life-saving products and solutions.”

Harrison said the Center is in the process of hiring two additional employees, but the intent is to maintain a lean staff while leveraging researchers and students within the WVU community.

“The rapid pace of change in the technology and operational environments combined with decreasing defense budgets mean that DoD must adapt to take full advantage of research and development investments in academia and the commercial marketplace or risk losing ground to a new generation of information age threats,” Harrison said.

Harrison, a 2012 Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year award winner, comes to the Center for Smart Defense after having successfully led multiple technology innovation organizations in DoD and industry. He served as director of the Technical Operations Support Activity in the U.S. Army from 2001-2006 and also received the Army’s 10 Greatest Inventions Award for 2004, 2005 and 2006.

“He has a wealth of experience working with the military in uniform and as a civilian,” said Matt Harbaugh, director of Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Commercialization at WVU.

“The focus is to enable the military to ‘do more without more,’ by using existing commercial technology or research at universities and adapting them for military use, especially in a time of reduced military budgets.”

The Center will also collaborate with the West Virginia National Guard.

The Center for Smart Defense takes its name, in part, from the ongoing Smart Defense initiative sponsored by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.



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