A trip this week to Dayton by NASA Glenn Research Center’s director will lead to improving partnerships between the space agency and aerospace-related companies and universities in the region, experts said.
Those partnerships will help create a workforce pipeline for the agency, according to NASA Glenn director James Free.
The John H. Glenn Research Center in Cleveland is one of 10 National Aeronautics and Space Administration Centers in the U.S. The center researches, designs, develops and tests technology for aeronautics and spaceflight. NASA Glenn employs more than 3,400 civil servants and contractors, and has a $1.3 billion annual economic impact in Ohio
The science and technology center has “tremendous overlap” with the Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, with which it has shared some programs over the years, Free said.
“My intention is to further that partnership,” Free said Friday at the University of Dayton Research Institute at 1700 S. Patterson Blvd. in Dayton.
NASA Glenn and AFRL represent Ohio’s two largest federal aerospace research and development facilities.
Free said there are additional collaboration opportunities with AFRL related to NASA Glenn’s missions in aircraft, spaceflight and sensors research.
Strengthening the connection between NASA Glenn and AFRL will “make sure that Ohio stands out front when it comes to aerospace and aviation,” said State Rep. Rick Perales, R-Beavercreek, co-chairman of the Ohio Aerospace and Aviation Technology Committee.
Perales said the two research centers have launched a personnel exchange, with a NASA Glenn researcher now working permanently at AFRL, and vice-versa.
On Thursday and Friday, Free visited area aerospace technology companies that included SelectTech GeoSpatial in Springfield, UES Inc. in Beavercreek and GoHypersonic Inc. in Dayton.
NASA Glenn hopes to match such companies with its scientists, engineers and technicians to help them further their technology.
“What we try to do with any business we work with is (ask) what is the technical problem you face and can we help you solve it to get to a product that goes out the door,” Free said.
NASA Glenn has provided similar services in partnership with the Manufacturing Advocacy & Growth Network (MAGNET), Cleveland’s Ohio Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) program center.
In two rounds with MAGNET, NASA Glenn has directly contributed to 40 jobs created or retained, $2 million in additional revenue, and $27 million in non-NASA funds secured for follow-on investment, said Robert J. “Joe” Shaw, NASA Glenn’s director of ventures and partnerships.
NASA Glenn is beginning conversations with Fastlane, Dayton’s MEP center headquartered at UDRI, about doing similar collaborations in Dayton. “This is one of our priority areas for expansion,” Shaw said.
A strong workforce will be need for future projects.
“We have some very unique technical challenges ahead for us at NASA with hybrid electric aircraft propulsion, with high-efficiency propulsion in space. That is going to take a different workforce than we have today,” Free said.
Such workforce development initiatives will support the future workforce at both Wright-Patt and NASA Glenn and “strengthen our state,” said John Leland, UD interim vice president for research and executive director of UDRI.