VITAL CONNECTIONS: ERDC, ERDCWERX celebrate partnerships at MCITy
Published 4:00 am Monday, December 12, 2022
The U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center is one of the nation’s premier research and Development centers, but ERDC Director Dr. David Pittman said the center relies heavily on its relationship with its partners to complete its mission.
“We can’t get anything we do done without partners,” Pittman said during a break in a Thursday meeting of ERDC’s Board of Directors and the Mississippi Consortium, which represents the state’s colleges and universities, at the Thad Cochran Mississippi Center for Innovation and Technology, or MCITy.
“Our primary mission is research and development so we need partners in academia, industry, even state and local government support and internationally to get done what we do because literally, we don’t have enough people to get it done ourselves.”
ERDC, Pittman said, is growing and its workforce will be expanding “but not as fast as our research programs are growing. So it’s going to be more important to have relationships like we have here with MCITy, with the research consortium and partners in industry and in the local government.
“This is a nationwide, worldwide problem because ERDC supports the Army Corps of Engineers for the worldwide mission, and the Corps of Engineers itself has a huge focus on partnership because the Corps itself believes it can’t get things done without partners. So partnerships are super critical in how we get done what we get done,” he added.
ERDC has a program to help develop those partnerships — ERDCWERX, which occupies the third floor of MCITy, has a mission to cultivate a vibrant ecosystem and shape successful alliances to innovate and commercialize technologies that support the warfighter.
“It’s very important to have ERDCWERX; we started with them about 4-5 years ago,” Pittman said. “They’re the kind of interface between us and the bigger community out there.”
ERDCWERX’s residence in MCITy is critical as far as being in a position to develop partnerships and collaboration between ERDC and other organizations.
“MCITy represents to me the innovation hub of this side of the state,” Pittman said. “We’ve got our campus but we’re trying to reach out beyond our fence line, so to speak. We’re trying to reach the businesses, we’re trying to reach academia. Mississippi State’s moving in here, Jackson State, Ole Miss, USM (University of Southern Mississippi), Alcorn, Hinds; they’re all moving in this building. As we expand the partnership beyond the fence line of ERDC, this is the kind of place you’ve got to need.”
Being at MCITy as opposed to being on ERDC’s campus, or anywhere else, he said, puts ERDCWERX in a good position to develop relationships with the state’s colleges and universities. Mississippi State, Jackson State, Ole Miss, the University of Southern Mississippi, Alcorn State and Hinds Community College, he said, will all have representatives at MCITy.
“There’s something about proximity; everybody being here together to promote that entrepreneur and technical innovation spirit,” he said. “We’ve got tons of stuff coming out of ERDC; a lot of brainpower there, a lot of capability. Now it’s time to leverage the private sector and academia and others to help us get all that done. That’s what we’re working for.”
ERDCWERX, Pittman said, can provide the mechanisms to work with others.
“Their true function is to help you collaborate and get to how we can work together without necessarily having a contract first,” he said. “ERDCWERX, that’s what they’re for; Congress gave it that kind of ability to have those kinds of conversations and collaborations without a contract yet. It builds collaborations.”
He said ERDCWERX is doing much of the work ERDC’s staff had to do in the past.
“They’re experts at this; they can go out and find the right industry, the right partnership we need,” Pittman said. “We’ve got a worldwide mission. If they can help us do that, and then help attract industry here because they want to be where the action is so it’s going to be good for not just the nation, the Corps of Engineers and their mission, but Warren County and the state of Mississippi and ERDC’s other labs.”