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The Purdue Institute for Global Security and Defense Innovation is seeking new security and defense solutions to the global threats arising today.

Threats to national and global security create a complex web that stretches across all areas of society. Threats involving dual-use technology domains like AI, autonomy and advanced materials are especially challenging, as our broad areas like the weaponization of social media, nuclear proliferation, and the shifting balance of power among major nation states.

At Purdue’s Discovery Park, the Institute for Global Security and Defense Innovation (i-GSDI), is working to better equip Purdue’s deep bench of researchers to address security threats with diverse technical, social and policy solutions.

“We can no longer rely on decades of military superiority via so-called technology offsets. Countries around the world are innovating and advancing; whether it is quantum computing, cryptography, hypersonics, or artificial intelligence; the gap is closing fast,” says Tomás Díaz de la Rubia, Purdue’s chief scientific officer and senior vice president for strategic initiatives. “In the future we must out-invent, out-discover and out-innovate our adversaries every day.”

The institute was founded in 2016 in response to the U.S. Department of Defense’s evolving and pressing need for integrated solutions, new talent and new modes of knowledge access, coupled with a need for rapid defense innovation from conception to delivery.

I-GSDI meets these needs by serving as a networking platform that draws from Purdue’s crosscutting research capabilities and core competences in STEM, policy and social sciences, and entrepreneurship, connecting these capabilities with industry and government entities through the i-GSDI consortium. I-GSDI also seeks integration opportunities with other Discovery Park centers and institutes, with especially strong ties with CERIAS and collaborators in the Purdue Energetics Research Center (PERC).

In addition, i-GSDI has forged close partnership with the Purdue Research Foundation  in order to maximize the awareness of and success in transitioning key innovations to the government and industry partners who need them most. As Chad Pittman, PRF’s vice president for national security and defense notes, “I-GSDI is playing an important role in advancing Purdue’s mission to engage our world-class research capabilities with government and industry.”

The institute is currently focused on three vital security areas: hypersonics, trusted and secure microelectronics , and digital transformation. Each area is driven by an i-GSDI innovation lead. Hypersonics, overseen by Innovation Lead Jon Poggie, associate professor of aeronautics and astronautics in the College of Engineering, is an area at Purdue with among the broadest base of any university in the nation, Díaz de la Rubia says. Multi-faceted trusted microelectronics, spearheaded by Innovation Lead Peter Bermel, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering in the College of Engineering,  an area that lies at the heart of almost every piece of cyber-physical infrastructure in both civil and military realms, adds Díaz de la Rubia. Digital transformation is led by Nate Hartman, the Dauch Family Professor of Advanced Manufacturing and head of the Department of Computer Graphics Technology in the Purdue Polytechnic, in conjunction with Purdue’s Digital Enterprise Center.

I-GSDI Consortium members come from non-profit, industry and government communities at the state, national and global level. They include:

  • Lockheed Martin Corporation
  • McKinney Associates
  • Mercury Systems, Inc.
  • Indiana Innovation Institute
  • Purdue Research Foundation US Army Research Laboratories
  • Crane Army Ammunition Activity Sandia National Labs
  • Naval Surface Warfare Center Crane NAVAIR

Partnerships with the Naval Surface Warfare Center-Crane Division and Sandia National Laboratories have been especially critical to success in the i-GSDI mission, Díaz de la Rubia says. “With both of these partners, progress is being forged via collaborative research on all of the most critical capability areas, including hypersonics, cybersecurity, materials, and modeling and simulation. “These collaborations are bearing fruit because these partners have made strategic decisions to invest in and with Purdue, justified in part by Purdue’s commitment to national security and defense mission, exemplified by i-GSDI and other campus agents.”

Purdue is a proud member of the Sandia National Laboratories Academic Alliance Program, one of only five universities selected. I-GSDI led the pursuit of Purdue’s partnership with Sandia. Among the Sandia initiatives that Purdue is involved in is Autonomy New Mexico, an academic research coalition with a mission to create artificially intelligent aerospace systems. AutonomyNM’s broader ambitions are to serve as a wellspring for other industries by developing ideas that could lead to safer, more efficient robots in autonomous transportation, manufacturing, space or agriculture.

Another is Sandia’s Autonomy for Hypersonics Mission Campaign, which involves four Purdue faculty members. The mission is designed to integrate leading expertise from throughout the country with the laboratory’s knowledge in high-performance flight vehicles.

“Across the board, the foundation of i-GSDI as a platform for connecting ideas and using partnerships to turn ideas into opportunities and then accomplishments appears to be the right approach,” says Dan DeLaurentis, i-GSDI director and a professor of aeronautics and astronautics.

For industry partners, i-GDSI offers a platform on which to showcase a company’s latest solutions and pressing needs, allows access to current and relevant defense technology and procurement and policy issues, and provides a feedback loop for new opportunities to maximize defense potential. Mercury Systems, a leading commercial provider of secure sensor and safety-critical processing subsystems, is partnering with Purdue to develop advanced technologies in areas ranging from advanced flight vehicles to microelectronics. Lockheed Martin, another partner, is considered the world’s leading provider of defense technologies and solutions across almost every field of application.

In July, Purdue hosted the first National Defense Industrial Association Hypersonics Capabilities Conference on Purdue’s campus. “NDIA is the premiere defense industry association, and the hosting of this very first NDIA event on the topic of hypersonics is a milestone achievement for all The fact that Purdue’s relationship with NDIA was initiated by partners at NSWC-Crane is testament to the power of the partnership model,” says DeLaurentis.

“Security challenges and the requisite defense solutions are so radically diverse in their character, it is amazing. With the ever-evolving complexity and widespread nature of security threats, we need i-GSDI at every university, in my view, at least those that want to engage in solution-making at a holistic level,” DeLaurentis adds. “I-GSDI will continue to enliven and expand the network of ideas and innovations on- and off-campus so that transformative solutions to security challenges are realized.”

Writer: Linda Thomas