National Institute for Undersea Vehicle Technology launched by URI, UConn, General Dynamics Electric Boat

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KINGSTON, R.I. – Nov. 7, 2017 – The University of Rhode Island, the University of Connecticut and the U.S. Navy’s primary builder of submarines are at the helm of the new National Institute for Undersea Vehicle Technology.

Established at UConn’s coastal Avery Point campus, the institute develops the personnel and knowledge to accelerate critical research of and enhance American dominance in submarine and other undersea technologies.

The collaboration among URI, UConn and General Dynamics Electric Boat recognizes the rich history of the region—a hub for development of the technologies and workforce that advance the national undersea arsenal.

Arun Shukla, URI Simon Ostrach Professor of Mechanical, Industrial and Systems Engineering, and Richard Christenson, UConn professor of civil and environmental engineering, are the institute’s co-directors.

“The institute will educate the next generation workforce for the shipbuilding industry transitioning not only technologies, but a solid knowledge base to advance the next generation and next platforms of undersea vehicles,” said Shukla.

In a prime location to pursue Navy-related research and projects, the institute is close to the naval submarine base in Groton, Conn.; Electric Boat’s facilities in Connecticut and Rhode Island; the main campuses at URI and UConn; the Naval Undersea Warfare Center; and the Naval War College. A cooperative research and development agreement with the Naval Undersea Warfare Center in Middletown, R.I., bolsters the institute’s regional importance.

“As Land Grant and Sea Grant institutions the University of Rhode Island and the University of Connecticut are uniquely positioned to undertake cutting-edge research, in collaboration with our close partners, and then assist in the development of our innovations to improve national and global security,” said URI President David M. Dooley. “Our universities are engaged in the scientific exploration of our oceans and the invention of new undersea technologies that facilitate the creation of the next generation of undersea vehicles.”

The shipbuilding industry in the Northeast is a crucial contributor to the Navy’s undersea fleet, with expertise in submarines and other vehicles manned and unmanned, and to technologies that operate underwater, from shallow tidal areas to the deep ocean.

“This institute will help industry support the desire to deploy new undersea capabilities more rapidly,” says Kurt Hesch, chief operating officer at General Dynamics Electric Boat. “The intellectual horsepower and the state-of-the-art research facilities at the universities provide the tools necessary to research technologies so that industry partners can transition them for integration onto undersea vehicles.”

The institute bolsters Navy-related research opportunities at URI and UConn. Throughout the past decade, the universities have pursued more than 140 research projects that advance the technology and understanding of undersea warfare.

Recent expansion in global access to technology has threatened American dominance in undersea warfare. The institute will build upon the experience and expertise of Electric Boat, URI and UConn to bring promising innovations from the lab to commercial readiness faster and more cost-effectively, while training the next generation of engineers and technologists.

As part of the institute’s efforts, a three-year, $1.3 million Office of Naval Research STEM grant recently awarded to URI and UConn will boost opportunities that prepare undergraduates to join the shipbuilding industry.

Many companies in Connecticut and Rhode Island contribute to the construction of undersea vehicles and those connections benefit the states’ economies and workforce. The institute will leverage these major naval resources across southeastern New England to develop and accelerate the transition of innovative technologies to the U.S. undersea fleet.

“This initiative demonstrates the tremendous potential for innovative collaboration not only between universities, but in partnership with industry leaders and government,” said UConn President Susan Herbst. “On behalf of UConn, I am very excited that our institution is a key player in this important work.”

Christenson, of UConn, agreed: “The institute promotes research on undersea vehicle technology through a uniquely collaborative approach between the universities and industry, allowing us to conduct basic and applied research relevant to the Navy and facilitating rapid technology transition.”

Other URI and UConn research collaborations with the Navy since 2007 include:

  • Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative, rational design of advanced polymeric capacitor films.
  • Blast performance of marine composite and sandwich structures and experimental investigation of free field and shock-initiated implosion.
  • Exploring uncertainty in real-time hybrid substructuring of marine systems.
  • Sensor networks for multiple target tracking.
  • Automated 3-D target reconstruction and classification using distributed passive sensors for persistent surveillance.
  • Development and testing of undersea gliders.
  • Low-cost acoustic transmitters.
  • An interactive wave sediment profiler.

The Connecticut and Rhode Island congressional delegations have been important advocates for the institute:

“The institute will allow the Navy to access the best technical talent in industry and universities to help build the next generation of undersea warfare systems and technologies,” said U.S. Senator Jack Reed of Rhode Island, the ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. “We need to make sure that these kinds of partnerships are well supported and resourced in order to best address our real national security challenges.”

“I am thrilled that the University of Rhode Island is taking on a key role in this innovative regional partnership to pioneer the future of undersea technology,” said U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island. “The institute will provide the groundwork for creating high-tech jobs, growing our economy and training the next generation of engineers in Rhode Island.”

“The National Institute for Undersea Vehicle Technology will bring together the expertise at URI, UCONN, and Electric Boat to ensure our submarine fleet and undersea vehicles remain robust for years to come,” said Congressman Jim Langevin of Rhode Island, senior member of the House Armed Services Committee. “I have fought hard in Congress to ensure opportunities like this are possible, and I am pleased to see this valuable partnership come to fruition. The cutting-edge research performed at these institutions will be pivotal in defining the next generation of undersea capabilities to protect our nation, and the collaboration will help develop the next generation of engineers.”

“This groundbreaking partnership will solidify Connecticut’s role at the helm of the nation’s shipbuilding industry. The institute will support the building of the world’s strongest, stealthiest submarines in southeastern Connecticut, strengthening our nation’s defense, creating jobs and spurring economic development,” said U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut.

“The new National Institute for Undersea Vehicle Technology solidifies Connecticut’s role as the submarine capital of the world,” says U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut, a member of the Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, which has oversight of funding decisions pertaining to submarine force and naval programs. “The Institute will bring UConn’s world-class researchers and Electric Boat’s first-rate workforce together to help make the next 100 years of Connecticut’s submarine heritage just as successful as the last.”

“Expanding the size and capabilities of our submarine forces will require a team effort of the brightest minds in academia and industry to ensure that our nation retains our dominance under the seas,” says U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney of Connecticut, ranking member of the House Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee, which has oversight over the submarine force and naval programs. “By linking together southeastern New England’s leading public universities with Electric Boat, the Navy and other stakeholders, we can harness and focus the talent of our region to tackle the more pressing challenges and opportunities for our undersea forces. I am proud to have worked to help get this initiative off the ground, and will continue to do all I can to support their efforts in Congress.”