South Kingstown, RI — July 14, 2020 — The U.S. Office of Naval Research has awarded Navatek LLC of Rhode Island a $3.8 million contract to develop autonomous systems to combat threats to cyber-physical systems (CPSs), bringing with it the University of Rhode Island’s College of Engineering as its partner in the project. CPSs include marine vessels, unmanned vehicles, water treatment plants, power grids and smart buildings. The marriage of cybersecurity and systems engineering will ensure that these critical systems become more resilient to avoid or survive damage if attacked.
The program goal is to advance research of Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) resiliency in the face of physical and cyberattacks for shipbuilding and manufacturing. It will include the development of autonomous systems that can respond quickly to attacks that leverage machine learning, artificial intelligence, and digital twin concepts coupled with hardware and software. The result of this research will be a set of procedures, architectures, and devices that will be used to retrofit existing or new manufacturing processes for the U.S. Navy.
With its extensive expertise in cyber security and micro grids, URI will construct the lab facility and develop artificial intelligence systems for this project.
“Our long-standing partnership with Navatek has brought University expertise, faculty and students, together with industry leaders to strengthen an area essential to the protection of our technological infrastructure,” URI President David M. Dooley said. “This is exactly the kind of critical work the University needs to be doing with a leading Rhode Island company, to help build a workforce in the state that can develop innovative strategies to mitigate these cybersecurity and infrastructure system threats.”
“Navatek and URI will build on existing cyber-physical research, tailoring it to meet Navy requirements, for both shore-based and ship systems. With the growing cyber threats to our Navy’s systems and warfighters, Navatek is proud to partner with URI on this effort and hire new scientists and engineers to build on our critical mass of talent in South Kingstown,” said Martin Kao, chief executive officer at Navatek.
Brendan Conlon, director of cyber security at Navatek adds, “This is an exciting time for Navatek as it pursues ground-breaking research with URI. The tactics and techniques developed will undoubtably contribute to advances in critical infrastructure protection.”
“We have always had an innovative and collaborative partnership with Navatek, and are proud to continue to grow our research and development of critical technology in cyber-physical systems resiliency and apply it to the Fleet,” commented Dr. Raymond Wright, dean of the College of Engineering at URI.
“This project has great potential to enhance the security of cyber-physical systems and I commend URI and Navatek for partnering to win this Naval research award,” said U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI), the Ranking Member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and a senior member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense.
“It’s important that we continue to invest in the research necessary to defend our military forces and facilities against cyberattack by increasingly aggressive adversaries,” said Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI). “Rhode Island is at the forefront of cybersecurity research and development. I’m excited to see what this partnership between URI, Navatek, and the Navy will bring.”
“Our Navy ships are the original connected cities,” said Congressman Jim Langevin (D-RI), the Chair of the House Armed Services Committee’s Subcommittee on Intelligence and Emerging Threats and Capabilities and a member of the Cyberspace Solarium Commission. “Ships’ advanced systems keep our sailors safe and our adversaries at bay. But as onboard systems become increasingly interconnected, they also are more vulnerable to hacking. We need advanced research on the intersection of computer systems and physical processes so that we can protect our ships from cyber attacks that could disable their engines, weapon systems, or even their power plants. I’m proud that Rhode Island will continue to grow our blue economy by performing this cutting edge Naval research.”
“This new federal funding will provide critical resources to put Rhode Islanders in good-paying jobs keeping our country safe,” said Congressman David Cicilline (D-RI). “The University of Rhode Island and Navatek are second-to-none. I know that this partnership will help develop new technologies that make our world a better, safer place.”
The Principal Investigators on the project are Haibo He, the URI Robert Haas Endowed Chair in Engineering and the Director of the URI Computational Intelligence and Self-Adaptive Systems (CISA) Laboratory, and Engineering Professor Yan (Lindsay) Sun, the director of URI’s Network Security and Trust (NEST) Laboratory. He’s research interests include computational intelligence, machine learning and data mining, cyber-physical systems, human-robot interaction, smart grid, cyber security, and various application fields. Sun is considered a pioneer on addressing the power grid security challenges from the holistic view of information, signal processing, and networking.
Navatek is a leading provider of innovative research and development services for the Department of Defense, NASA, and other government agencies. Historically a provider of naval architecture and modeling and simulation services, its portfolio has diversified to encompass digital twins, power and energy systems, unmanned vehicles, robotics, autonomy, AI/ML, data science, inflatables, composites, and additive manufacturing. Since its founding in Hawaii in 1979, Navatek has grown to open offices in Rhode Island, Maine, Virginia, Michigan, South Carolina, and Oklahoma.
About the University of Rhode Island
The University of Rhode Island is a competitive and highly regarded public institution in New England and beyond. The principal public flagship research and graduate institution in Rhode Island, it enrolls about 14,650 undergraduate students and more than 2,240 graduate students. The University is known regionally and worldwide for its big ideas and pioneering research in such areas as air, water, and ground pollution; biotechnology and life sciences; engineering, marine sciences, forensic sciences, neuroscience, cybersecurity, supply chain management, pharmaceuticals, the behavioral sciences and public health promotion.