For Immediate Release: July 22, 2011
By Melissa Goodwin, ONR Global
Ever since its discovery in 2004, “wonder metal” graphene has had the science and technology (S&T) world abuzz. The one-atom sliver of material is super strong and has physicists predicting that it will one day replace silicon in computer chips and even revolutionize the electronics, aerospace and automotive industries.
Graphene’s discovery earned the 2010 the Nobel Prize in physics for professors Andre Geim and Kostya Novoselov, both of the University of Manchester in England. The Nobel win also validated the Office of Naval Research’s (ONR) investment in multinational collaboration. The organization’s international S&T command, ONR Global, recognized the carbon material’s potential for naval applications and quickly launched programs to invest in its promise.
ONR Global began supporting Geim’s work in 2007 under its Naval International Cooperative Program. Although graphene was not discovered under ONR sponsorship, the agency’s senior leaders said they were honored to be associated with Nobel-caliber scientists.
“The graphene project exemplifies the way in which ONR Global scours the world for the most innovative research being conducted and collaborates with international partners from industry, academia and government agencies to bring these forward-thinking products to fruition,” said Capt. Mike Smith, ONR Global’s commanding officer.
Collaboration with international partners in the S&T arena is crucial, Smith said. “Global S&T investment dynamics are changing. Of the $1 trillion annual international investment in S&T, the U.S. portion has shrunk to approximately one-third and continues to shrink as other nations in Asia and Europe increase their spending.
“This trend offers more opportunity to find innovative S&T ideas across the globe, but it also increases America’s potential for technology surprise,” Smith continued. “This underscores ONR Global’s mission of seeking the most advanced innovations to keep the Department of the Navy on the leading edge of technology.”
With engagements spanning six continents and 70 countries, ONR Global acts as the Department of the Navy’s technology broker, connecting the international S&T community to the Naval Research Enterprise (NRE)—the Navy labs, warfare centers and affiliated universities. It is the bridge between operational Sailors and Marines and the NRE.
Simply put, “ONR Global’s mission is to search the world for promising emerging scientific research and advanced technologies,” said Dr. Clay Stewart, ONR Global’s technical director, “This will enable ONR to effectively address current fleet and force needs and to investigate and assess revolutionary, high-payoff technologies for future naval missions and capabilities,” Stewart said.
In the beginning…
Founded in London as the Navy International Liaison Office in 1946, ONR Global focused on identifying promising research opportunities in Europe. By 2010, ONR Global had expanded its footprint and its mission, establishing offices in Japan, Singapore, Chile and the Czech Republic.
Today, ONR Global comprises two major complementary programs: the Science Advisor and the International Science programs. The former introduces relatively mature technologies into the fleet in the near term, while the latter focuses on fundamental research that will payoff for the future naval forces.
ONR Global’s science advisors provide the critical link between ONR and the best technology the world has to offer. These 26 scientists and engineers are selected from the NRE through a highly competitive process to participate in a one- to three-year career development tour. Science advisors are assigned to the staffs of combatant commands, as well as major Navy and Marine Corps commands worldwide and focus on delivering S&T solutions to solve operational problems.
Additionally, the International Science Program’s 23 Associate Directors reside in ONR Global’s five offices. These Ph.D.-level scientists, who have previous experience with academia, industry and U.S. Navy labs, engage foreign governments, academic institutions and industries to tap into global S&T resources that will enhance or develop new opportunities for cooperative research.
Associate Directors are typically internationally recognized specialists in their respective fields of expertise, such as sensors, power electronics, ocean acoustics and metamaterials, and many are fluent in a foreign language.
While performing their primary mission of mining innovative international S&T, the Associate Directors also contribute to the overall U.S. defense relationship with various countries and deliver enhanced global technical awareness to the naval forces. They are frequently called upon to brief senior naval leaders. Additionally, International Science Program personnel execute grants with foreign researchers to further ONR and general NRE programs, since much groundbreaking S&T research is done by international partners.
From basic research to product deployment, ONR Global is committed to identifying the best S&T resources from around the world.
“Future S&T relevant to naval needs requires productive global dialogue,” said Dr. Clay Stewart, ONR Global technical director. ONR Global’s long history, international presence and dynamic staff contribute to making that dialogue possible.
A Force for Good
Beyond international S&T collaboration, ONR Global also focuses on improving the lives of U.S. naval forces and citizens around the globe.
When a March earthquake in Japan triggered tsunami waves that destroyed lives, some of the country’s infrastructure and led to a nuclear power plant’s partial meltdown, ONR Global’s science advisors in the region offered support. They shored up Operation Tomodachi, staffing the U.S. Pacific Command’s S&T cell at headquarters in Camp Smith, Hawaii.
Science advisors worked 24/7, screening technology to help measure radiological status, monitor the ocean and currents and model airborne particle plumes in support of Department of Defense efforts. ONR Global staff also identified and proposed several technologies to the Japanese military to assist with the country’s recovery.
“We worked for a month straight doing whatever was possible to identify and then propose technology solutions to this unprecedented disaster,” said Donn Murakami, a science advisor to Marine Forces Pacific. “We would take any step necessary to contribute to the fight, even if it was not the 100 percent solution, because we knew our efforts were helping those in need.”
ONR writer Katherine H. Crawford contributed to this report.
About the Office of Naval Research
The Department of the Navy's Office of Naval Research (ONR) provides the science and technology necessary to maintain the Navy and Marine Corps’ technological advantage. Through its affiliates, ONR is a leader in science and technology with engagement in 50 states, 70 countries, 1,035 institutions of higher learning and 914 industry partners. ONR employs approximately 1,400 people, comprising uniformed, civilian and contract personnel, with additional employees at the Naval Research Lab in Washington, D.C.