NORMAN — U.S. Department of Defense grants have more than doubled for University of Oklahoma research projects in recent years, and, according to Vice President of Research Dr. Kelven Droegemeier, results will aid much more than just the military.
“The Department of Defense funds research in cancer, brain injury and behavioral science for issues of privacy and policy,” Droegemeier said. “The research applications from D.O.D. projects are very broad and many aren’t specific to actual ‘defense’.”
Droegemeier said the boost in defense research grants had largely to do with an initiative lauched in response to a gaping disparity between the university’s reliance on defense grants and available funding.
“We found that 54 percent of the federal research budget was available through the D.O.D., and we were only using 6 percent of defense grants in our budget here at OU — our portfolio was unbalanced so we created an initiative to specifically emphasize helping faculty pursue defense/security/intelligence grants,” Droegemeier said.
Due to Norman’s expertise in radar development, many of the projects center on production of prototype radars for identifying aircraft missiles, tracking points of origin on enemy missiles/mortar shells and development of surveillance drones.
None of the university’s defense projects are weaponized.
“The work we’re doing with defense grants is more general and tends toward intelligence, but it’s also applicable to weather detection as well,” Droegemeier said.
One example of a D.O.D. grant - funded project involves the development of ground-based radar similar to that used in weather detection to track space debris as small a screw, enhancing the safety of manned and unmanned spacecraft.
“The Space Sense project is relevant to space missions and satellites and the total cost of the project was over $3 billion. Having a university work with the Dept. of Defense is enormous for students and that’s the scale we’re looking at for future collaboration and defense projects. We’re wanting to get into bigger projects and tackle a wider array of problems,” Droegemeier said. “I’d like to see Department of Defense portion of our budget get up to 20 percent of the total portfolio.”