CRANE, Ind. – Naval Surface Warfare Center, Crane Division Commanding Officer Capt. JT Elder was named the Laboratory Director of the Year by the Federal Laboratory Consortium (FLC) on Friday.
Each year since 1999, the FLC National Advisory Council has honored Laboratory Directors who have made outstanding contributions to support technology transfer (T2) activities in their organizations and the communities they serve. Capt. Elder earned this year’s award because of his unwavering support of NSWC Crane’s T2 efforts.
Capt. Elder is the just the third winner of the award from any Naval Surface Warfare Center, and the first since NSWC Crane’s Duane Embree won it in 2013. Capt. Elder will receive his award on April 26 at the Omni San Antonio Hotel.
“I am both honored and humbled to win such a prestigious award, but this is a recognition of all the work done at Crane, not work done by me alone,” Capt. Elder said. “T2 is and will continue to be an important part of what we’re doing here at NSWC Crane. Not only does T2 allow our current and former employees the opportunity to use intellectual property they’re familiar with to build commercial products, but it also has a significant impact on the regional economy. I look forward to continuing to work with those in our T2 office as we strive to reach our goals.”
Since assuming command in June 2014, Capt. Elder has helped elevate NSWC Crane’s T2 program to an unprecedented level in terms of numbers of signed T2 agreements, strategic partnerships with state organizations, universities, and industry, and the size and quality of the lab’s intellectual property (IP) portfolio. NSWC Crane currently has 152 signed T2 Agreements and 514 items in its IP portfolio.
“Capt. Elder has expanded and elevated the efforts started by his predecessors to work with the Office of Research and Technology Applications (ORTA) and transform Crane’s T2 function into one of the lab’s showcase areas of achievement,” said Brooke Pyne, NSWC Crane’s T2 director.
Capt. Elder’s commitment to technology transfer is especially significant and noteworthy given the drastic reduction in the overhead budget for the T2 and patent program. During the fiscal year 2016, the T2 lab saw a 33 percent decrease in the number of people paid to support T2.
Instead of allowing the budget constraints to stunt the growth of the program, Capt. Elder did everything in his power to encourage more people to get involved with T2 at Crane.
“Capt. Elder continued to champion the T2 program and has fostered a culture of innovation and collaboration within the lab,” Pyne said. “Capt. Elder was able to meet the fiscal and organizational challenges through focused staff selections that provided a balanced team for the program. He promotes T2 whenever he speaks with an actual or potential industry partner, and he makes sure that the organizations understand the benefits of cooperative research and development agreements (CRADAs), as well as patents and patent licensing agreements (PLAs).”
Under Capt. Elder’s leadership, NSWC Crane’s IP portfolio has increased by over 40 percent, and Crane’s CRADAs and PLAs have hit record numbers. In addition, the processing time for T2 agreements, which used to take multiple months, has been cut to just weeks.
Capt. Elder has helped the T2 program sustain such exceptional growth in a few key ways.
First, Capt. Elder combined the budgets for the patent prosecution and the ORTA, allowing for a central and strategic place for IP and T2 investment decisions to be made.
Next, Capt. Elder helped transfer a former NSWC Crane professional to the Indiana Office of Defense Development via the Intergovernmental Personnel Act (IPA), which maximized resources and provided additional exposure and opportunities for partnerships with regional and state organizations. Through the IPA, an external investment of $1.1 million was made for T2 activities.
Capt. Elder also motivated the workforce to participate in the T2 program by overhauling the NSWC Crane Invention Incentive and Recognition Program. Capt. Elder communicated the importance of IP and T2 for the lab, which led to a renewed interest by scientists, engineers and leadership to participate in T2. The Incentive and Recognition Program includes a monetary award as well as an annual awards ceremony where Capt. Elder and the lab’s Technical Director recognize innovators.
Finally, Capt. Elder has helped NSWC Crane’s T2 program thrive by promoting the benefits of partnering with Crane during industry interchange meetings as well as visits from prospective partners in industry, academia and state and local government. Capt. Elder has hosted visitors from Air Force Research Lab Rome as well as leadership from both NSWC Corona and Port Hueneme to share the lab’s T2 philosophy and best practices.
Perhaps Capt. Elder’s most significant contribution to NSWC Crane’s T2 growth is his commitment to a successful relationship between the lab and Purdue University. During his tenure, Capt. Elder has arranged multiple Technical Data Exchange meetings between scientists and engineers at both Purdue and Crane to align strategic research and development topics. Purdue’s Office of Technology Commercialization (OTC) developed over 100 marketing sheets for NSWC Crane patents.
“Capt. Elder’s understanding of how such partners can provide mutual benefit to the organizations – as well as the state and region – has led to a number of new initiatives surrounding the relationship with Purdue,” Pyne said. “This relationship is the perfect example of the impact Capt. Elder’s leadership has had on NSWC Crane’s T2 program.”
NSWC Crane is a naval laboratory and a field activity of Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) with focus areas in Expeditionary Warfare, Strategic Missions and Electronic Warfare. The warfare center is responsible for multi-domain, multi- spectral, full life cycle support of technologies and systems enhancing capability to today’s warfighter.