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Open Campus Initiative Allows Open Collaboration for Army Research Lab

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Behind every great idea are the individuals who strive to turn their hard work and efforts into reality. In the U.S. Army Research Laboratory’s (ARL) case, the ideas developed involve enhancing the capabilities of soldiers on the battlefield.

In order to successfully bring ideas to life, collaboration between various agencies, both federal and nonfederal, is often necessary.

ARL’s Open Campus initiative is a program that allows for this type of collaboration between ARL researchers, academia, industry and small businesses, both nationally and globally.

The tools available to aid the laboratory in its collaborative endeavors through Open Campus include Cooperative Agreements (CAs), Education Partnership Agreements (EPAs), and Cooperative Research and Development Agreements (CRADAs).

Cooperative Agreements are tools that are used when parties wish to work together on the same project while sharing each party’s expertise, facilities and equipment. These agreements require government involvement; and, while funds may be passed from the government to the partner, the partner may not provide money to the federal partner.

Education Partnership Agreements are used to encourage and enhance education and research opportunities with academia in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics disciplines relevant to ARL science and technology programs. Under EPAs, visiting students have access to world-class research facilities and are able to work side-by-side with subject matter experts in their fields of interest. In turn, ARL is able to increase the awareness and visibility of military-developed technologies, which has the potential to assist with the commercialization of military technology.

CRADAs are formal agreements between one or more federal laboratories and one or more nonfederal parties under which the government provides personnel, facilities, equipment, or other resources. Under a CRADA, ARL may receive financial contributions, but funds may not be sent to the partner.

In the past year, ARL has seen a significant increase in the number of CRADAs established. According to Thomas Mulkern, team leader of ARL’s Program Budget Office’s Technology Transfer Team, while CRADAs are not new to the organization, ARL has witnessed an increase in CRADAs—from 19 proposed in fiscal year 2013 to 48 proposed in fiscal year 2014.

Of the 48 proposed CRADAs, 21 are with academic partners, and 27 are with industry partners. Mulkern noted that while not all of the 48 are fully executed, they are currently in the staffing and approval processes. In addition, some of the 48 CRADAs are with university systems, meaning this number is higher in actuality.

"Under Dr. Thomas Russell’s leadership, the ARL workforce is being empowered to collaborate and participate in Open Campus more so now than ever before. At times, our workforce may seem isolated from the outside, but Open Campus is broadening our horizons and providing the access to seek out and ensure for collaborations with outside researchers, both nationally and globally," Mulkern said. "Open Campus allows for visiting researchers, to include foreign nationals, to have access to some of our world-class facilities, making collaborating with ARL that much more appealing."

Mulkern then expanded on how Open Campus can be used as an opportunity for researchers to work with their former institutions. "In addition to hosting guest researchers and visiting organizations and universities for the first time, the Open Campus initiative allows ARL researchers the opportunity to go back and collaborate with researchers at their alma mater, which many of our researchers find rewarding," he said.

Mulkern noted that an added bonus to the Open Campus initiative is that by bringing in young and talented outside researchers, ARL has the opportunity to recruit and hire some of the best and brightest scientists and engineers around the country and the globe.

ARL technical staff and management are responsible for finding potential partners with whom they feel it would be beneficial to engage and develop a collaborative partnership. Researchers also advertise areas and specific projects seeking Open Campus collaborative engagement in the Open Campus Opportunities document, which is available for download in the related files section.

Through providing an opportunity for collaboration both inside and outside of the organization, access to world-class facilities, and the advantage of working in an open and engaging environment, ARL’s Open Campus initiative is projected to foster great success that will ultimately benefit our soldiers both now and in to the future.

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