The Genius of International Science Collaboration

For the last 50 years, the Office of Naval Research has been in the business of guiding the most "imaginative research" * found across the country. Technologies taken for granted today – the cell phone, the Global Positioning System, the laser, the national bone marrow donor program, for example – all came from initial Navy science support. It all started during the final months of World War II and, most recently has led to such breakthroughs as autonomous vehicles and robotics, smart weapons, new semiconductor materials, progress in nanotechnologies, and agile vaccines, for example.

So, it should be no surprise that all along ONR has been eyeing science overseas. ONR's International Field Office in London has been funding overseas research for many years and business this year has been especially brisk. In London rooms used a half century ago by Eisenhower to wrap up the business of the War, the Navy recently wrapped up this year's business of overseas "imaginative research" by reviewing 63 international science and technology program proposals. Twenty-five of those, from 13 countries around the world, will be supported with funding from the U.S. Navy in 2003. **

The range and diversity of these international programs is quite remarkable, and if the majority of these sound particularly timely, this is no surprise either.

As a result of 9/11 and the high priority for new technologies to support anti-terrorism, force protection, and homeland defense, many of the programs selected for award were responding specifically to an anti-terrorism Broad Agency Announcement (BAA).

In Ireland, for example, ONR will fund a program to address the use of artificial intelligence and intelligence agents in gathering massive amounts of information, and enabling us to work in such information environments. In Norway, work will be funded for a program that will test the hypothesis that, for coastal surveillance, multi-frequency radar using target adaptive matched illumination processing can be tailored to discriminate against background backscatter.

In Singapore experiments are underway to field an underwater swimmer detector system. Phase one will determine the capability of the sensors in the local waters with possible follow on phases designed to field the sensors to protect US and Singapore assets.

In the UK, among several projects, the science and design of blast-resistant sandwich structures will be supported. In Australia, there has been an on-going effort to develop advanced composite structures for ships, addressing critical issues regarding the integrity of load-bearing structures and joints, as well as structural integrity following fire damage. Another project will develop fiber-optic sensors for ship structure corrosion monitoring, in support of Navy's program on condition-based maintenance, and another will develop a complete set of physical and biological oceanographic monitoring capabilities needed to assess effects of sound on passing humpback whales – acoustic research pertaining to joint naval activities.

The Czech Republic will investigate advanced software for monitoring and reasoning the interactions among distributed intelligent agents for possible exploitation of adversary networks, but also to provide a technology base to assist in the control of coalitions systems.

In Japan, the need for fast ships and increased fuel economy has led to renewed interest in decreasing the friction drag on ship hulls. Microbubble air injection is the most promising technology. And in Korea, a program for assessing the ultimate strength of composite ship hulls will be funded.

"This is the genius of collaboration," says Captain Jim Campbell, Commanding Officer of ONR's London office. "I like to call it ‘Interconnected Global Support.' A world team of collaborators offers a tremendously enhanced potential for meeting the needs of our operational Navy and Fleet Marine forces."

For a full report and listing of ONR's International Field Office (IFO) program Awards for 2003, please contact Richard Hess in London at

* The exact language in the House Report dated June 28, 1946 to establish ONR states that the agency would make available "…world-wide scientific information and the necessary services for conducting specialized and imaginative research…"

** ONR has established International Field Offices in London, Tokyo, Singapore, Australia, and Chile. Those countries that received funding for 2003 are Australia, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Korea, Norway, UK, Czech Republic, France, Ireland, Japan, Netherlands and Singapore.

* Some pages on this website provide links which require a plug in to view.