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Purdue to lead regional Air Force research hub

Purdue research Jeff Rhoads (L) is director of the Herrick Laboratories at Purdue. ( photo courtesy: Purdue/Vincent Walter)

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — Purdue University is continuing to build upon its foundation as a leading research institution for the U.S. armed forces and national security. It is one of two universities recently selected by the Air Force Research Laboratory to serve as lead academic partner and headquarters for the just-formed AFRL Regional Research Hub. The AFRL says the program will help create a science and technology ecosystem.

In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, Jeff Rhoads, director of Herrick Labs at Purdue, said the collaboration will help expedite the development of quickly advancing technologies.

“Fundamentally, I think the Air Force is looking at how they can better engage their stakeholders, but also look at how they can vertically integrate not only the really interesting research and workforce development activities happening in universities… but small, medium and large sized businesses…as well as folks like venture capital.”

Purdue will lead the AFRL Regional Research Hub – Midwest, which covers 15 states, more than a dozen research schools and 50 industrial partners.

“With fresh, synergistic thinking and joint action with our partners across academia, industry and government, we will create an agile ecosystem that builds upon recent advancements and can respond at speed and scale to the increasingly complex national security landscape,” Rhoads said. “By having all partners in the technology supply chain from the onset, we have the ability to more rapidly transition critical technologies to the United States Air Force and Space Force, as well as commercial markets.”

The formation of the AFRL Regional Research Hub network is a pilot initiative, with the first part of the pilot covering the Mid-Atlantic and Midwest regions, with expansion to other regions possible in the future. Cornell University will serve as academic lead in the Mid-Atlantic hub.

“The hope is that more technologies can transition not only to the warfighter, but also the commercial market where there’s a clear dual use,” said Rhoads.

The Air Force Research Lab, which is headquartered at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio, says through the new network, it will be able to share costs and risks of technology innovation. It can also provide experiential learning opportunities.

In an interview with Inside INdiana Business reporter Wes Mills, Rhoads explained the need to protect intellectual property while collaborating on technology.

Rhoads says landing the hub notches another win for the state.

“This gives the Air Force One more foot in the state of Indiana and so we’re super excited to say this is actually making Indiana State where there’s a AFRL presence and we think that can only help the state,” said Rhoads.