A coalition of aviation and aerospace companies, industry associations and state educational institutions joined the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) at AirVenture 2016 to unveil a new partnership to explore the establishment of an aviation/aerospace center of excellence in southeastern Wisconsin.
The proposed Center of Excellence for Integrated Aerospace and Defense Technologies will bring together industry and academic researchers, engineers and programmers to develop and test new aerospace and cybersecurity systems in one location, which would make it the first independent facility of its kind in the nation, according to officials.
“Many of Wisconsin’s aerospace companies are on the cutting edge of the industry and are developing technologies already in use worldwide,” said Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleefisch, who made the announcement at the EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh. “The establishment of this center will enable the inventors and innovators in the private sector to work closely with our universities to ensure the state maintains and advances its position in this key industry.”
Plans call for the center to be located on the Milwaukee campus of Astronautics Corporation of America, which has played a leadership role in this collaborative effort. A timetable for construction is still to be determined.
The center, which will be used by partner companies and universities, will include advanced open-source cockpit and navigational systems simulators, integration and verification stations, and security penetration testing for the collaborative development of life-critical controls and general systems controls.
Milwaukee-based Astronautics will provide flight displays, airborne systems and sensor inputs to ensure the center has a representative aircraft environment. The center also will include a cybersecurity workstation with state-of-the-art tools used to ensure the aircraft systems are protected against cyber-attacks.
“Astronautics is excited about the possibility of creating and hosting a center of excellence that will leverage Wisconsin’s position as a leader in innovative technology, especially within the global aviation and aerospace industry,” said Astronautics President Chad Cundiff. “The unique competitive advantage of this center will be the blending of aerospace and cybersecurity solutions that will benefit both industry and higher education.”
The coalition includes DRS Technologies Inc., B/E Aerospace Inc., the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Marquette University and other state industry partners.
The coalition will work with the newly formed Wisconsin Aerospace Partners to reach out to regional and national industry partners and secure their participation as plans move forward for the center. The group also is expected to apply for a grant from WEDC to support the center. WEDC has played a key role in spearheading the project.
Establishing such centers of excellence is part of WEDC’s long-term strategy of advancing targeted, high-growth business clusters to develop high-quality jobs and significant job growth in Wisconsin. The facilities—including the Global Water Center and the Energy Innovation Center—serve as cluster “anchors” around which educational R&D, corporate R&D and commercialization, external investment and company attraction connections are made.
“Our centers of excellence have demonstrated that Wisconsin companies that recognize their mutual dependency and form partnerships to address common challenges are thriving and creating new economic opportunities,” said Lee Swindall, vice president of sector strategy development for WEDC. “Because of the commitment from the members of this coalition, we’re confident the success we’ve had elsewhere will be replicated with this initiative.”
Wisconsin has more than 200 companies with ties to the aerospace sector, including more than 140 suppliers to Boeing. More than 24,000 people are employed in Wisconsin by companies that support the aerospace sector.