Award

State And Local Economic Development Award

The Rural Indiana Technology Commercialization Initiative (RITCI) is a partnership with the Naval Surface Warfare Center, Crane Division (Crane), the Indiana Office of Defense Development (IODD), the University of Southern Indiana (USI), Purdue University, and Indiana University. It was launched in 2014 under the premise that most of the "pieces" needed to support technology-based economic development (TBED) existed in rural Indiana and were funded for the most part, but had yet to be connected. The RITCI set out to network these pieces with the goal of effecting economic impact and further leveraging the national investment made at Crane.

Unlike federal laboratories in an urban environment, Crane is literally in the middle of a cornfield in a highly rural state in the middle of the country. The counties around the lab are well below the nation's and the state's average in all prosperity measures. Crane and most of its existing partners do not have an urban ecosystem or the local resources to connect all of the people, ideas and resources, and leverage the lab to its fullest economic development potential. Even such infrastructure requirements as a road network to connect Crane to major population centers are just now being put in place, more than 70 years after Crane was established. Thus, although Indiana has a federal laboratory that produces some of the nation's best innovation, these resources have not yet been fully leveraged for TBED purposes. On the other hand, while geographically dispersed across a rural state, Indiana has the components in place to move innovation from the laboratory to the marketplace. The genius of the RITCI is its simplicity in linking existing programs and resources in an innovative way--connecting the dots, so to speak, so that the various pieces coalesce.

One example of RITCI's impact is a new startup, Pivot Engineering, LLC, a company started by graduates of the Technology Commercialization Academy (TCA) at USI. The TCA identified an innovative electrical contact device developed by Crane inventors as a potential opportunity and repurposed the innovation. The Growth Alliance for Greater Indiana (GAGE), a partnership intermediary, provided startup support; USI assisted with the invention disclosure and filing for provisional intellectual property (IP) protection; GAGE and USI funded the IP filing; and Purdue's Foundry provided distribution and marketing analyses. Next steps include pursuing the patent application; using USI resources to support product and team development; and working with the Indiana University Law Clinic.

As new and existing companies leverage Crane's assets to hire talent, invest capital, develop innovation, and bring new products and services to market, the fledgling innovation ecosystem within Crane's rural region benefits, as does the lab's ability to support its primary national security mission. The lab in the middle of a cornfield will now be able to play a larger role in building Indiana's economy and assisting Indiana with achieving rural economic impact and national prominence.

Contact: Elizabeth B. Pyne, (812) 854-4823, elizabeth.b.pyne@navy.mil

Award Year: 
Region: 
Midwest