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New agreement with Navy guides diverse research to UVA

uva-logoThe University of Virginia’s Applied Research Institute has signed an agreement with the Navy Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division to support a variety of research efforts, including work in the area of cyber security and big data analytics, and to provide executive education to military and civilian leaders working with the agency.

The first project under the agreement provides $1 million to fund research in the laboratory of chemistry professor James Landers.

Over a five-year period, the agreement offers the potential for continued research funding from Department of Defense agencies for services from researchers in a range of UVA disciplines to address some of the most pressing challenges facing the military in cyber security, biometrics, logistics, transportation systems, economics and other technical and operational areas.

“The agreement is a broad University vehicle that will allow us to carry out a number of different research projects at the request of NAWCAD and other defense agencies,” said Joan Bienvenue, director of the Applied Research Institute. “Initially we’re focused on executive education, and cyber and data sciences – areas we’re already deep into at the University – through the Darden School of Business, the School of Engineering and Applied Science and the Data Science Institute.”

The Applied Research Institute’s mission is to create research opportunities for the University across the disciplines; to develop and provide education and training programs for its funding partners; to encourage and facilitate pan-University research initiatives; to serve as a liaison between University researchers and industry and government managers; and to provide unique research opportunities for students.

The Applied Research Institute “provided inroads for us into federal agencies not necessarily accessible to research faculty,” Landers said. “Through networks they have established, ARI identified a need within the [Defense Department], connected us with the right people and marshaled proposal submission and contract negotiation. Faculty need this kind of connectivity. With the NAWCAD agreement in place, ARI can not only open doors for us, but have the conduit to bring the funds to UVA.”

As the institute’s director, Bienvenue’s goal is to leverage UVA’s assets to support applied research, education and training with a focus on homeland security, national intelligence and defense challenges.

“This agreement is proof of how UVA’s Applied Research Institute is serving as a premier multi-disciplinary center for addressing some of the nation’s biggest defense and homeland security challenges,” said John Simon, UVA’s executive vice president and provost. “We look forward to this opportunity to work with and support the NAWCAD mission, which in turn will lead to further research and educational opportunities for our faculty, staff and students.”

Bienvenue, who holds a Ph.D. in chemistry from UVA, came to her position in 2013 from Lockheed Martin, bringing extensive industry, government and national intelligence experience and contacts from those communities.

To leverage UVA’s research and leadership training strengths, Bienvenue strengthened her agreement with NAWCAD by partnering with both the Commonwealth Center for Advanced Logistic Systems and the Systems Engineering Research Center. The former is a collaboration between industry, government and Virginia universities designed to deliver transformational improvements to logistics systems; it’s consortium of Virginia universities that includes UVA and Longwood, Virginia Commonwealth and Virginia State universities.

UVA is also a collaborating university in the Systems Engineering Research Center, a university-affiliated research center with more than 20 nationally recognized institutions from across the United States chartered to study and address the most challenging systems engineering problems and issues faced by the Department of Defense and other federal agencies.

“The strength of our programs at UVA in cyber security, data science and executive education gave us a very strong competitive proposal to submit to NAWCAD, combined with our corporate partnerships, [Systems Engineering Research Center] and [Commonwealth Center for Advanced Logistic Systems] memberships, that helped us secure this agreement,” Bienvenue said.

One big advantage of a research agreement like the one with NAWCAD, she said, is that research monies can be more quickly directed to the principal investigators working in these areas, providing more rapid solutions to better serve the Defense Department.

“It’s a long-term agreement set in place that is very enabling for our researchers and makes it easier to use UVA’s assets to support NAWCAD’s mission and the Department of Defense,” she said. “This is a big win.”

Faculty in UVA’s Engineering School, School of Medicine and the College of Arts & Sciences are involved in Applied Research Institute projects. Some of its other funding partners include Booz Allen Hamilton, Northrop Grumman, Syracuse Research Corporation, Signature Science and Battelle.

Several projects already are under way related to undersea power units, cyber security, custom integrated circuits, scientometric analysis of scientific literature, bioinformatics and infectious disease research.

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