Science and Technology News

Friday, February 24, 2012

ONR Global and Prague: A Winning Combination

By Dave Smalley, Office of Naval Research

ARLINGTON, Va. (NNS) -- Hailed as a vital bridge between cutting-edge scientific research and international diplomacy, the Prague branch of Office of Naval Research (ONR) Global marks its two-year anniversary Feb. 26.

"Bringing different [international] entities together toward a strategic goal is one of the major benefits of having ONR presence in Central and Eastern Europe," said Cmdr. Mark Williams, ONR Global regional director, NATO and Europe.

ONR Global's mission is to meet current and future needs of the Navy and Marine Corps. Five regional engagement offices around the world seek out promising science and technology (S&T) advances, and promote S&T collaboration at an open source and unclassified level between ONR and international scientists.

The other sites are in London, Tokyo, Singapore and Santiago, with its international liaison office located in Arlington, Va.

"We wanted to increase our engagement with industry and academia in the region," said Michael Morgan, director of ONR Global's engagement office in Prague. "We chose Prague because of our rich history of research with the Czechs, and its central location."

With just 24 months in existence, the office has already accomplished pioneering work in technologies from cyber defense to new models of air traffic control.

In one recent effort, dubbed AgentC, the Prague office of ONR Global supported work at Czech Technical University on software that models sea piracy and provides alternative routing for commercial vessels in waters off the Horn of Africa.

"That [AgentC] has gotten a lot of attention from a number of people," said Dr. Paul Losiewicz, ONR Global associate director in Prague. "The Danish border police were interested because the same sort of tracking capabilities would be used, whether it's illegal fishing, illegal dumping, smuggling, you name it; the algorithms would be the same."

Williams singled out Prague office programs such as innovative cyber defense initiatives, and a string of collaborative scientific events that have brought together leading European scientists, U.S. and Czech government officials and representatives from private industry.

An upcoming engagement series on innovation, set to kick off in March in the Czech Republic, is exactly the kind of project ONR's strong global presence can create, he noted.

"We are bringing academia, government and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs together at the same table to look at innovation. These entities don't regularly sit at the same table," Williams said.

According to Morgan, a key accomplishment so far for the Prague office includes a successful ONR/European Union (EU) workshop, the culmination of a year of planning and organizing. "It opens the door for us to leverage EU research and development funding, which is forecast to be more than $100 billion over the next seven years," he said.

"Our biggest challenge is managing the overwhelming positive response from central and Eastern Europe," Morgan added. "We are astounded by the response we received from the region."

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.

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