The University of Arizona has launched a new Defense and Security Research Institute that aims to expand the University's strengths in those areas while helping the UA to reach its goal of doubling research expenditures from $600 million to $1.2 billion by 2023.
The interdisciplinary institute will help pave the way for new, mutually beneficial partnerships between the UA and industry, which is one of the key goals of the University's Never Settle plan.
"We set ambitious goals when we launched the Never Settle strategic academic and business plan, and I couldn't be more excited about this critical step forward," said UA President Ann Weaver Hart. "We said we needed to support our land-grant mission by accelerating collaboration between the UA and industries like aerospace and defense – and that's exactly what we're doing with the formation of the DSRI."
The DSRI has three major objectives: to help identify and coordinate significant defense and security research opportunities, to help UA faculty and research teams obtain new sources of funding through interdisciplinary collaborations and public and private partnerships, and to serve as the UA's front door to the external defense community.
Arizona has the fifth largest aerospace and defense economy in the nation and is home to Davis-Monthan Air Force base, Fort Huachuca, Raytheon and other key players with whom the UA already has strong relationships.
The DSRI is expected to make the University an even more attractive partner to those entities.
"A key part of the DSRI is about creating partnerships with regional defense contractors and other companies – helping them move forward on research and development and workforce development," said David Allen, vice president of the UA's Tech Launch Arizona. "We expect that UA researchers will collaborate with the defense community to undertake large projects funded by defense and security agencies."
The institute will leverage the University's excellence in the disciplines that play a role in defense and security initiatives.
"The UA has great expertise and outstanding facilities in many areas of interest to defense and security-related agencies and industry, such as materials, energy, environmental research, medical technologies and social sciences," said Jennifer Barton, UA interim vice president for research.
"What the DSRI does – as an interdisciplinary center for research – is bring together faculty and researchers working in these areas and connect them with funding opportunities," Barton said. "By partnering, we can make significant advancements in basic research and development, support Arizona's important aerospace and defense industry, and make progress towards our goal to double research expenditures."
With federal funding for research on the decline, defense and security have been identified as key areas in which the UA’s strength in science and engineering can help bring in new funding and help the University reach the research expenditure goal set by the Arizona Board of Regents.
Department of Defense funds support research in a variety of areas, including medicine, basic science, social sciences, computer science and environmental science, Barton said.
A faculty advisory board and an external advisory board, comprising prominent members of Arizona's aerospace and defense industry, will guide the DSRI.
A national search is underway for a director of the new institute.