October 18, 2017  

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Southern Miss Receives $3 Million Federal Grant to Develop Pilot Programs for Technology Transfer, Economic Development

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The University of Southern Mississippi has been awarded a $3 million grant by the United States Department of Defense’s Office of Economic Adjustment (OEA) to develop three pilot programs to aid regions whose economic health is dependent upon defense initiatives.

Mississippi was selected for the $3 million pilot program development due to USM’s expertise in economic development and the state’s dependence on Department of Defense spending with $5.5 billion per year spent in the state.

“This grant will allow our USM research team to expand our technical services to communities interested in increasing commercial opportunities through innovation and technology transfer,” said Shannon Campbell, Director of USM’s Trent Lott National Center for Excellence in Economic Development & Entrepreneurship.

Military bases and defense contractors, along with their supply chain, are a major part of many local economies. As the Department of Defense makes adjustments in its spending, many communities’ well-being will depend on the ability to diversify and transform their economies.

To assist these communities, the Southern Miss College of Business and Trent Lott Center will collaborate on the development of three primary initiatives:

  • Provide economic diversification technical assistance for communities
  • Create a defense community specialization for the Masters of Science in Economic Development program
  • Create a platform for technology transfer related to defense intellectual property into new economic opportunities. 

These programs will be piloted in Mississippi and then refined to assist communities across the nation.

“We’ve worked very hard to capture this award and are proud to have an award of this magnitude. This pilot program will help create strategic solutions that could be emulated around the country,” said Chase Kasper, Assistant Vice President for Research, Technology Transfer & Corporate Relations at USM. “Now, more than ever, national security is on the forefront in everyone’s minds. We will have an opportunity to create new innovations that could provide additional business diversity in Hattiesburg and Mississippi’s Gulf Coast region.”

In addition to numerous military bases, the defense industry is a major Mississippi employment sector, including aerospace, shipbuilding, weapon systems, armored vehicles and other equipment. Shipbuilding is Mississippi’s largest civilian employer accounting for 13,063 jobs and more than $1.3 billion in earnings for the state.

An example of a potential transition is Camp Shelby’s changing from the National Guard’s largest mobilization center to a diversified training site for more than 100,000 personnel annually.

“As a veteran myself, I think this is an exciting opportunity to apply USM’s economic development expertise to assist the defense community and the State of Mississippi as it adjusts to federal funding changes,” said Dr. Chad Miller, Associate Professor in the Department of Economic Development, Tourism, & Sport Management. Miller spent three years on active duty in the U.S. Army.

Technical assistance for communities will include cataloging and analyzing existing assets in Mississippi that can be relied upon to support implementation of a statewide comprehensive strategy (market, supply chain, workforce analyses, etc). USM will assist communities and regions in planning short-term and long-term economic strategies designed to minimize defense industry adjustments through data-driven, resiliency-focused action planning. 

The Masters of Economic Development degree program will include an online option for working professionals and for military personnel seeking to transition into civilian employment. Professional economic developers are in high demand, and the degree program will be expanded to include an emphasis in defense sector economic diversification.

The University will support the expansion of Department of Defense’s National Security Technology Accelerator as a means of encouraging a greater number of entrepreneurs and small businesses to transfer technology and innovations into commercial opportunities. USM recognizes NSTA initiatives as a unique opportunity to mitigate defense spending reductions through economic diversification and enhanced economic capacity for Mississippi’s struggling economy. 

Robbie Ingram, Manager of USM’s Innovation and Commercialization Accelerator and CEO of the Mississippi Enterprise for Technology, noted that the federal grant offers a unique opportunity for the University to showcase its research and technology capabilities.

“This grant enables USM to develop a platform that accelerates the transition of technologies developed in the private sector into defense applications and also technologies developed in federal laboratories into private enterprise for scale-up and production,” said Ingram. “The fact that this platform is being piloted in Mississippi will provide technology developers and producers in the state the ability to showcase their products and capabilities in the early stages of project implementation.”