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Government/Industry/Academic Relationships for Technology Development: A Workshop Report
prime contractor, a protégé, and a minority academic institution. In this specific case, the trio consisted of Northrop Grumman, Coast/ACM, and Florida International University (FIU). FIU performed matrix testing and modeling for the partnership and was reimbursed by Northrop Grumman for the amount of work completed. Funding for the entire 2-year program was almost $900,000. In a reimbursable program such as this, a protégé receives no money from DOD or from the mentor. However, it can be reimbursed for incidentals to extent of 10 percent of the entire program cost. For a university, however, the money would vary depending on the program and the project.
The benefits to FIU included the funding of three graduate students, who gained valuable experience working on a real-world problem. Two of them are pursuing Ph.D. degrees and the third is employed by Raytheon. The fabrication capability at FIU was improved and new procedures were developed and documented. Benefits also include relationships developed between the university and its partners that could lead to future work, not necessarily under the DOD’s Mentor-Protégé program.
Likewise, the partners received benefits from the academic research group, which identified and recommended materials to minimize stresses on the components used during assembly and determined that the current organic materials would be incompatible with ceramic substrates. Peninger said that FIU had played a very important role in the collaboration by proposing solutions to material compatibility issues predicted through its modeling efforts. By the time the partnership ended, Coast/ACM, with the assistance of Northrop Grumman Space Technology, had developed a surface mount product line that now accounts for approximately 25 percent of its sales.
Peninger, in response to the moderator’s comment that the relationships developed assisted in technical issues related to transfer of the technology, said that in most reimbursable DOD Mentor-Protégé programs, the third partner—the academic side of the triangle—is rarely mentioned, even though it is a key element. Molly Macauley began by asking Peninger how the relationship between Coast/ACM and Honeywell and Northrop Grumman ended. Peninger said that for the past 20 years, Coast/ACM had been a legacy supplier to both companies, although before that Northrop Grumman had used approximately 88 suppliers of magnetics for its technology. This number was then narrowed down to four suppliers, only one of which—Coast/ACM—was a minority-owned company. Twenty years ago, the company had never considered becoming involved in the SDB arena. After Coast/ACM became certified by the Small Business Administration as an SDB, a few large companies noticed that partnering with it would help them in meeting their SDB goals. Northrop Grumman was able to bring Coast/ACM into the DOD Mentor-Protégé program, something that could not have been done with any of its other suppliers, and to profit from doing so.
Peninger continued by saying that, in fact, it was Coast/ACM that had profited. The same benefits accrued from Coast/ACM’s relationship with Honeywell. Prime contractors are currently interested in ways to meet their social goals, including the use of SDBs.
With Northrop Grumman, the partnership was a natural fit because Coast/ACM was nearby, making it possible to meet in person and for engineers, programs managers, and senior scientists to collaborate closely. The partnership with Honeywell did not mature in the same manner, since Coast/ACM was in another state.