DBJ: Wright State research group to lead $49M Air Force initiative


Wright State Research Institute LogoA Wright State University affiliate has been selected to lead a first-of-its-kind program that aims to enhance partnerships between the Air Force and academia.

Wright State Applied Research Corp., a nonprofit that provides contracting, security and research administration services for Wright State Research Institute, the university and the state of Ohio, will head the new U.S. Air Force Academic Partnership and Engagement Experiment (APEX) program.

The five-year, $49 million APEX project will focus on enhancing academic engagement nationwide in support of the Air Force Small Business program, National Defense Strategy and the Air Force’s 2030 Strategy. Focusing initially on the Air Force Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transition Research (STTR) program, APEX is meant to improve the connections between the Air Force, academia and industry across the United States. The end goal is to make a “major leap forward” for Air Force defense technology development, officials say.

“Importantly, the APEX project focuses specifically on growing the Air Force’s technological defense capabilities in partnership with academia,” Bill Harrison, small business director for the Air Force Research Laboratory, said. “This is the first of its kind in the country working across the country to connect small businesses with academia.”

During the five-year program, APEX will expand and accelerate technology transfers from universities to industry and the U.S. Department of Defense. APEX will begin with facilitation of the STTR program, which requires partnerships between universities with small businesses.

“APEX is a one-of-a-kind program that will focus on enhancing academic engagement while strengthening the relationship between the Air Force and our academic institutions nationwide,” U.S. Rep. Mike Turner (R-Dayton) said. “Wright State University has earned this position as the lead institution for this initiative due to its continual pursuit of scientific discovery and support of this nation’s military. APEX will play a cutting edge role in developing the technology and practices of tomorrow and I am proud that the nexus of these activities will be right here in the Dayton area.”

Dennis Andersh, WSARC’s chief executive officer, added, “The APEX initiative is designed to expand the Air Force’s scientific presence, enhance access to top national and global talent, advance innovative workforce development, increase technology-transfer opportunities and create a robust pipeline of technology-proficient airmen and airwomen.”

Wright State University President Cheryl B. Schrader, Ph.D.

Under the APEX initiative, Wright State University will play a key role in employing advanced machine learning and data science to identify scientists and scientific communities around the country whose work can be developed for Air Force use. Michael Raymer and Tanvi Banerjee, professors of computer science at Wright State’s College of Engineering and Computer Science, will provide expertise to establish APEX’s data analytics capability.

“This will enable Wright State to play a critical and integral role nationally in support of the Air Force’s academic engagement strategy,” Wright State President Cheryl Schrader said. “The university is thrilled and honored to be able to help the Air Force form new partnerships that will draw technologies out of universities, government and business. We’re nimble, we’re hungry, and we’re creative.”

Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley said it is always encouraging when Dayton-area research institutions are recognized nationally.

“We have so much talent in our region, and it is exciting that Wright State Research Institute has been chosen as a partner for this new Air Force initiative,” Whaley said.

APEX is established via an Air Force-WSARC Partnership Intermediary Agreement. The $49 million agreement leverages WSARC leadership of the Ohio Federal Research Network to improve academic and industry research partnerships across Ohio, created in partnership with The Ohio State University.

“It is of little surprise Wright State was chosen for the prestigious role,” Schrader said. “Wright State University has a rich history of academic-Air Force collaboration.”

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