2008 Laboratory Director of the Year Midwest

Joe Sciabica was named director of the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) Sensors Directorate (RY) in May 2005. Since beginning his career with the Air Force in 1982 as a program manager at the Air Force Rocket Propulsion Laboratory, he has held a variety of assignments with progressive responsibility in both management and technical leadership. As he rose through the ranks, his accumulating experience reinforced his belief that technology is a contact sport, not an intellectual exercise. As he says, “Take a risk. Get your fingernails dirty, feel the technology and go build something.” That philosophy serves him well as he works to build collaborations and partnerships that bring together researchers, private industry and academia to work on some of the most pressing needs of the country’s warfighters. Mr. Sciabica became director of RY at a crucial juncture. Created in 1997 when RY-predecessor organizations in three separate locations were consolidated at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base (WPAFB), the directorate was significantly affected by 2005 base realignments and closures. Over the next few years, all of the Air Force’s sensor research programs will be co-located at RY, making it the world’s premier site for advanced sensor technology. To guide that transformation, Mr. Sciabica developed what he calls the “layered sensing vision,” in which all sensor technologies in an environment have the capability for integrated communication, creating a “sensor web.” With Mr. Sciabica’s layered sensing vision serving as the touchstone for technology development and commercialization, the role of technology transfer has been dramatically elevated within RY. The changes in process and the increased visibility of the benefits that technology transfer offers the directorate are increasing its numbers of completed CRADAs. In 2007, RY entered into 10 CRADAs, doubling its active number to 20. Two Patent License Agreements (PLAs) were signed, one an exclusive license and one nonexclusive. Other agreements include 13 Education Partnership Agreements (EPAs), four of which were signed this year; and one Assignment on an Invention to the University of Connecticut. Another of Mr. Sciabica’s accomplishments is the establishment of the Tec^Edge Innovation and Collaboration Institute. Tec^Edge offers a neutral environment in which multidisciplinary teams can come together in intense collaborations to focus on some of the nation’s most challenging and pressing issues. Tec^Edge was launched in January 2007 and is an operational element of the Wright Brothers Institute. The AFRL and the Dayton Region are its foundational stakeholders; participants come from military, government, academia and industry. Their interactions take place via developmental sessions, solution forums, resident teams and rapid reaction/prototyping teams. Since its launch, nearly 2,000 individuals have participated in Tec^Edge collaborations.
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