Purdue establishes permanent presence next to NSWC Crane for future of national defense and semiconductors

Attending the launch of Purdue@Crane: U.S. Rep. Jim Baird (IN-4); Angela Lewis, NSWC Crane technical director; Navy Capt. Rex Boonyobhas, NSWC Crane commander; Mung Chiang, Purdue University president; Karen Plaut, Purdue University executive vice president of research. (Purdue University/Garrett Poortinga, Green Hat Media

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Officials of Purdue University, the Purdue Applied Research Institute (PARI) and the Purdue Research Foundation announced a permanent presence in elevating the partnership with Naval Surface Warfare Center, Crane Division (NSWC Crane), in a ceremony Tuesday, Sept. 5, at WestGate Academy in Odon, Indiana. This investment will catalyze and accelerate the existing collaborative research agreements that focus on national security and defense and on semiconductors.

Titled Purdue@Crane, this focus on hypersonics, energetic materials and trusted microelectronics at WestGate@Crane Technology Park builds on the strong Crane-Purdue partnerships in these fields and takes them to the next level, Purdue officials said. This new initiative bolsters the partnership with a permanent Boilermaker presence at the Odon, Indiana, center adjacent to NSWC Crane.

“Today marks a momentous milestone and turns a new chapter in the collaboration between Purdue and Crane,” said Purdue University President Mung Chiang. “This new strategic partnership with the most important defense presence in our state brings excellence at scale to deliver solutions for national security research. With one of the nation’s largest and highly ranked STEM programs, Purdue is excited to become a permanent neighbor and dedicated partner with NSWC Crane. As America’s leading university in semiconductor workforce and innovation, we are also looking forward to the new semiconductor ecosystem at WestGate Foundry 1.”

An initial focus of this initiative — secure and reliable microelectronics — will be led by a research director, an experienced and respected leader in defense microelectronics who will expand workforce and technology development in advanced packaging, reliable and trusted microelectronics, and electronic system design.

Collaborative work with companies located in the WestGate@Crane Technology Park, beginning with NHanced Semiconductors Inc. and Everspin Technologies Inc., is anticipated. The estimated annual budget will begin at $2 million this fiscal year and is expected to grow to $40 million of collaborative research in national security by 2030, Purdue officials said. 

The Purdue director and a team of researchers and staff will be located permanently outside NSWC Crane, starting at WestGate Academy. The staff will grow in number as Purdue@Crane moves forward. Plans include 3,000 square feet of space in WestGate Academy to start with, as well as a cleanroom space in WestGate Foundry 1. The cleanroom space is a forthcoming microelectronics manufacturing facility and a key component of Purdue’s semiconductors workforce, innovation and partnership strategies in the execution of the CHIPS and Science Act. The SCALE microelectronics workforce development program, which is administered by NSWC Crane, just received $19 million from the Defense Department.

Officials of NSWC Crane and Purdue joined together to make the announcement at the southern Indiana defense outpost. Among the guests were NSWC Crane Cmdr. Navy Capt. Rex Boonyobhas and U.S. Rep. Jim Baird, IN-4, who said collaborations such as this between Purdue and NSWC Crane are important.

“This kind of thing with Purdue, with the (Purdue Applied) Research Institute …  all of that ties with America and the importance of protecting this country,” Baird said.

Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb congratulated both parties on this new endeavor, noting, “Indiana’s commitment to developing the next-level, hard-tech ecosystem is ahead of schedule because of partners like Purdue University and NSWC Crane, WestGate.

“Having this formalized strategic collaboration in place will not only assist in strengthening America’s national security but also provide the academic talent pipelines necessary for next-generation innovation. I applaud President Mung Chiang and the base leadership for formalizing this important and impactful partnership.”

U.S. Sen. Todd Young of Indiana called Purdue and NSWC Crane “two of our country’s most important assets as we strive for technological advantage.”

“Our national security depends on partnerships among higher education, the private sector and all layers of government,” Young said, “and this venture yet another example of how Indiana is leading the way.”

NHanced President Robert Patti echoed the governor’s statement. “We at NHanced are thrilled with the Purdue announcement,” he said. “Their permanent presence will accelerate our collaborations and bring new technology to market much faster.”

“As a leader in MRAM (magnetoresistive random-access memory) commercialization, research and development, and manufacturing, Everspin is excited to collaborate with Purdue University on the next generation of MRAM use cases related to artificial intelligence and high-density memory applications,” said Sanjeev Aggarwal, Everspin president and CEO.

NSWC Crane’s skilled professionals put technical solutions directly into the hands of the armed services, ensuring safer missions by leveraging the talent, knowledge and experience of its highly technical workforce.

It is this work at Crane that makes Purdue@Crane a “very natural fit” with PARI’s mission of “applying the vast research infrastructure of one of the world’s greatest universities to solving critical problems in national defense and global security,” said Mark Lewis, PARI president and CEO and a former deputy undersecretary of defense for research and engineering.

“There is a lot of discussion in defense circles about bridging the so-called ‘valley of death’ between the laboratory and the warfighter,” Lewis said, “but that is exactly what we will be doing with this new initiative. I look forward to a future of impactful collaborations at Crane.”

“NSWC Crane’s partnership with Purdue University is stronger than ever, and the strategic investment in Purdue@Crane is a true testament that our priorities are aligned to provide critical defense solutions to solve some of the nation’s toughest technical challenges,” said Angela Lewis, NSWC Crane’s technical director. “It is an honor to collaborate with an esteemed academic institution like Purdue, and I am excited to see this investment mature, particularly in the fields of hypersonics and microelectronics development.”

Purdue’s engagement at WestGate started in 2015 to support research and development of innovations through commercialization and collaboration, said Chad Pittman, chief executive of economic development at the Purdue Research Foundation. “This announcement reflects the next phase of Purdue’s commitment to the region, to NSWC Crane, to the state and to the growth of semiconductor and microelectronics workforce that is mission critical to our nation,” he said. “This announcement is an intentional next step for Purdue’s collaboration with key partners in the national defense community.”

Writer/media contact: Evamarie Socha, ecsocha@purdue.edu