AFTAC partners with Florida Tech for third research agreement

  • Published
  • By Susan A. Romano
  • AFTAC Public Affairs
The Air Force Technical Applications Center here renewed its cooperative research and development agreement with Florida Institute of Technology Nov. 15 at a symbolic signing held at the university’s Melbourne, Fla., campus.
A CRADA is a government contract that allows for R&D collaboration between federal laboratories and non-federal entities to provide quick, unique access to extensive government-funded research that can be leveraged by both parties to yield powerful, scientific results.
“A CRADA is an incredibly flexible way for federal labs to work with the public sector and vice versa,” said Jonathan Holton, Deputy Branch Chief of R&D Relationships and Manager for Office of Research and Technology for AFTAC’s agreement with Florida Tech.  “It’s also one of the most significant mechanisms for technology transfer and transition, or T3, and through this process a federal lab can commit resources such as equipment, intellectual property, facilities, or most important, human capital, to any interested non-federal entity.”
The FIT-CRADA has evolved since its inception in 2016. Originally focused on cloud computing, it expanded in 2019 and now encompasses all of AFTAC’s mission sets (geophysical, nuclear materials and detonations, prompt diagnostics, and atmosphere and space operations), along with cross-cutting areas of innovation and environmental science.
At the signing ceremony, Florida Tech’s Executive Vice President, Provost and Chief Operating Officer had nothing but praise for the alliance.
“This partnership is extremely important for us, extremely valuable for us, and we are proud to have this level of partnership in this area,” said Marco Carvalho. “So, thank you for being colleagues, thank you for working with us and giving us the opportunity to be involved in important research that can benefit the country.”
Florida Tech is the premier private technological university in the Southeast and is known worldwide for its strengths in aerospace, advanced manufacturing, and machine learning, just to name a few disciplines.  AFTAC is the sole organization in the Department of Defense responsible for monitoring nuclear treaties and nuclear explosions throughout the world.
Together, AFTAC hopes to create a pipeline for graduates to leverage their degrees and pursue highly sought-after government employment opportunities in science and technology.
Dr. Daniel DeForest, AFTAC’s Director of Strategic Integration, has been the nuclear treaty monitoring center’s biggest advocate on the CRADA and has watched it evolve from a relatively small endeavor into a program of a much broader scale.  He, along with AFTAC Commander Col. James A. Finlayson, were the two other signatories with Carvalho.
“Since we’ve started the CRADA process, we’ve added a couple of Florida universities to partnerships, but none of the universities have the special relationship FIT does for some obvious reasons – proximity is one of those – but also because of the interest levels and the breadth of the research that you guys do that applies to us. We are hoping to grow this relationship so now we start pulling more of your graduates into AFTAC.”
AFTAC’s Chief Scientist and Florida Tech alumus, Dr. William Junek, echoed DeForest’s impressions.
“It gives me great pleasure to come back to Florida Tech to meet with the university’s executive staff and senior faculty members so our team can collaborate with FIT’s staff and students on all types of research and development efforts that benefit the AFTAC mission,” he said. “I am delighted to see the CRADA moving forward and really looking forward to continuing the partnership that we’ve built over the last several years.”
According to the agreement, it is estimated the Air Force will save more than $500,000 from the collaborative efforts between the two organizations.