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Chart 12: HPE and HPEC R&D Funding by Federal Sources
How HPE and HPEC R&D Dollars are Spent - Commercial vs. Defense
How R&D dollars are allocated and often spent depends on whether the project is commercial or defense in nature. The BXA survey asked respondents to categorize R&D expenditures as material, processing, or product related. Defense projects devote slightly more resources to material and product R&D (See Table 13 below), while commercial endeavors spend moderately more on processing R&D. In the commercial world, it is critical to have a well-defined process to make the product faster, better, and less expensive to produce. Defense projects are more devoted toward achieving superior product performance; thus the defense emphasis on material and product R&D.
According to NSWC Indian Head officials, the Department of Defense does not have a strong tradition of funding processing R&D. The exception is the Manufacturing Technology (ManTech) Program, which focuses on processing technology. The amount of money spent on ManTech programs is small compared to the rest of the defense R&D budget.
Specifically, program objectives are to:
a) Reduce the risk and cycle time associated with the transition from R&D to full-scale production by developing and implementing advanced manufacturing processes and equipment.
b) Extend the life of current Department of the Navy systems by providing manufacturing technologies to support the maintenance, repair, and overhaul of these systems.
c) Strengthen the industrial base by providing maximum dissemination of the results of all ManTech projects and the best manufacturing practices of government and commercial facilities.
Table 13: Spending Percentages of R&D for HPE and HPEC Products
(Commercial and Defense)
72.2 75.0 70.9 | 76.8 70.5 75.0 69.9 Source: U.S. Department of Commerce, BXA Industry Survey
While processing R&D percentages in the HPE and HPEC communities seem low, they are much higher than the processing R&D percentages of the respondents' total firm operations (See Table 14 below). In addition, within HPE and HPEC operations, as distinct from total firm operations, respondents spent a higher percentage on material R&D.
Table 14: Spending Percentages of R&D for All Products
(Commercial and Defense)
1999 Com Def Com Det Com Def Com Def Com Def
% % % % % % % % % %
The HPE and HPEC industries are always in pursuit of more energetic materials that can be safely used in munitions. A specific effort is underway to replace HPEs currently used in munitions with less sensitive substitutes."' In some cases, there may be little or no improvement in performance; rather, the benefit comes from the added safety of reduced sensitivity. The search for insensitive munitions is underway in the United States as well as other nations.
Department of Defense policy dictates that new munitions will be designed and produced to meet insensitive munitions requirements. This is also true for current weapons that are in the process of being redesigned for new missions or for greater performance. Munitions are now being configured to have vents to allow them to burn without
Munitions that reliably fulfill their performance, readiness, and operational requirements on demand, but which minimize the probability of inadvertent initiation and severity of subsequent collateral damage to weapon platforms, logistic systems, and personnel when subject to unplanned stimuli.
detonating. These new or modified munitions will be less sensitive to shock, heat, and sympathetic detonation.
One respondent stated that it was trying to replace “more sensitive munitions” with insensitive and more energetic explosives. In addition, three firms stated that they were specifically trying to replace HMX and RDX explosives. These efforts could also be related to identifying and designing HPEs that would fulfill insensitive munitions requirements. Fifteen firms stated that they were using their R&D projects to design new products.
To what extent can defense and civilian R&D efforts be leveraged to enhance each other's capabilities? The respondents were mixed as to their ability to use defense R&D resources in commercial applications and vice versa. Of the 29 organizations that responded to this question, 15 said that there was little or no crossover between defense and commercial operations. This was especially true for GOCO facilities, which are defense-only operations. Often, these respondents said that they perform no commercial operations and only perform R&D when it is tied to a specific contract.
Seven organizations said that there was a significant crossover in their defense and commercial R&D. These seven organizations were HPEC manufacturers rather than HPE producers. One of these respondents stated that R&D projects are used to “increase safety, improve processes, increase capabilities and overall, to reduce financial risk.” All of these objectives would apply to both commercial and defense projects. In addition to these seven respondents, four others stated that there was some crossover between their defense and commercial R&D.
Terminated R&D Efforts
HPE and HPEC manufacturers were asked to provide information on terminated R&D programs and to provide the reason(s) for termination. Seven organizations reported ending 16 R&D efforts between 1995 and 1999. Terminated R&D efforts included:
• Synthesis of explosives
New explosives to replace current explosives
There were several reasons for terminating these R&D programs. The two most mentioned were lack of funding and competition from a foreign country. The next most mentioned reasons were the completion of the R&D project or the R&D project not being successful.
Joint R&D Projects Between Industry and Educational Institutions
An effective way to leverage research and development expertise is to collaborate with outside educational organizations. Six firms within the HPE and HPEC industries have established relationships with seven universities to undertake joint R&D. In interviews
with BXA staff, nearly all of the firms had positive comments regarding joint projects with universities.
Five of the seven collaborations that reported to BXA were funded exclusively by company dollars. Of the remaining two, one was partially funded by both the U.S. government and a firm, while one was totally funded by the government.
The motivation behind these collaborations varied from company to company. The prime attraction for these HPE and HPEC firms was that the educational institutions possessed technical capabilities and facilities that the companies needed. One firm uses universities to investigate areas that it has the capability to study but lacks the time to pursue on its own. Another firm says it taps universities because they provide good value for the dollars spent on R&D. Some firms also use educational institutions to identify students that can be hired. Most of the firms that have collaborated with universities plan to collaborate again if a worthwhile project materializes. One firm has funded research at multiple universities.
If these collaborations have been so successful, then why have only six firms participated in such programs? With declining orders and defense spending, it appears that little money is available for non-essential R&D projects. In addition, an industry representative stated that many of these relations are ad hoc and are based frequently on geography (proximity of the firm to the university). It appears that a more organized sector-wide program would be of great benefit to U.S. HPE and HPEC companies, allowing manufacturers to leverage their R&D funds.
NSWC Indian Head and the University of Maryland
To address the need for greater collaboration, NSWC Indian Head initiated a program to
a expand cooperation with universities and in turn increase the number of graduates with experience in energetics. The program began in September 1998 with the signing of a contract between NSWC Indian Head and the University of Maryland. Under this agreement both organizations are working to:
Develop an internationally recognized energetics capability
This program engages University of Maryland professors and graduate students in “real world” energetics projects of interest to NSWC Indian Head. The focus of this effort is to improve manufacturing technology in energetic materials. NSWC Indian Head pays for these efforts and in return its staff members can take courses at the University of Maryland, at no cost, to maintain and increase their skills.
In addition to training a new generation of scientists and engineers, this program also plans to train a new generation of technical workers. In the summer of 2000, the CECD received funding to begin training technicians at Maryland community colleges. This training focuses on improving the communication between engineers and technicians. Through distance learning, engineering students can see the skills technicians are learning and vice versa. This type of education should produce engineers and technicians who will know each other's capabilities and should improve their interaction.
The CECD would like to expand its efforts to include additional universities, national laboratories, and private firms. It could also be a repository of knowledge, preserving the expertise that is dispersed around the country for future generations of energetic materials scientists and technicians.