Marine and UnderSea Technology Research Program (MUST) receives $3.6M grant for sustained research efforts in critical blue economy sectors

The latest award from the Office of Naval Research to create new marine science and technology projects

Students, faculty, and elected officials pose on stage
Ron Vien, Chancellor Mark Fuller, Congressman Keating, Tom Drake, and Vice Chancellor Ramprasad Balasubramanian pose with UMassD students participating in MUST research projects

UMass Dartmouth and Congressman William Keating announced a $3.6M grant from the Office of Naval Research (ONR) for the Marine and UnderSea Technology research program (MUST) at UMass Dartmouth's collaborative research projects with the Naval Undersea Warfare Center Division Newport.

The $3.6M grant will fund nine projects that focus on supporting the blue economy and offshore wind sectors through research projects that focus on improving sensors for unmanned undersea vehicles, wave energy conversion, underwater data transmissions and detection systems, and the habits of marine species in wind farm areas. Partner institutions and industries include BNWC, Brown University, Boston Engineering Cooperation, and Jaia Robotics Inc.

"Southeastern Massachusetts is well-positioned to be the national leader on blue economy projects, and this latest grant from the Office of Naval Research reaffirms what we already know: that UMass Dartmouth is uniquely positioned to lead the region forward as a blue economy hub," said Congressman Bill Keating. "The cutting-edge research undertaken at UMass Dartmouth will continue to assist the Navy and keep sailors and assets stationed throughout the world safe and on-mission, and that is something our region should be proud of."

"The marine science and technology research conducted by UMass Dartmouth and our collaborators at the Office of Naval Research and the Naval Undersea Warfare Center in Newport directly impacts the local economy and has global implications, " said Chancellor Mark A. Fuller. "Through the research and teaching of our faculty, we are empowering the next generation of blue economy and sustainable energy innovators that will use the power of our waters to achieve remarkable things."

MUST has funded 38 research projects, bringing together regional and national collaborators to strengthen the Navy's access to cutting-edge research and build a pipeline for a highly trained workforce. These areas of study include autonomous underwater vehicles and increasing their battery life, biofouling, composite materials, modeling ocean dynamics, undersea acoustics for communications and sensing technologies, oxidation mitigation for naval vessels, predictive modeling algorithms, and the use of autonomous vehicles to survey coastal environments.

"The UMass Dartmouth Marine UnderSea Technology (MUST) program is a sterling example of academic research contributing to Blue Economy and National Security objectives as well as producing the next generation of scientists and engineers. The Office of Naval Research is proud to support MUST faculty and students working on cutting-edge undersea science and technology," said Tom Drake, Director of the Ocean Battlespace Sensing Department at the Office of Naval Research.

Since October 2020, MUST has received $16.7M from the Office of Naval Research. This most recent award follows a $4.3M grant in February 2022, $4.6M in February 2020, and $4.2M in October 2020. MUST research projects have generated an additional $7.8M in funding from other agencies.

As the public research university for the South Coast of Massachusetts, UMass Dartmouth is ensuring Massachusetts is not just the Bay State, but also the Brain State”, said U.S. Senator Edward J. Markey. “The $3.6 million grant from the Office of Naval Research will advance marine science projects and the region’s leadership in the Massachusetts blue economy. This continued federal investment in UMass Dartmouth’s MUST Research Program is a testament to the invaluable partnership between the Navy and the UMass Dartmouth community.”

"Congratulations to UMass Dartmouth for securing this $3.6 million award from the Office of Naval Research to support the Marine and UnderSea Technology research program," said Senator Elizabeth Warren. “This new award is a testament to the years of groundbreaking research UMass Dartmouth has done to support the blue economy and offshore wind sectors – research that also helps strengthen the U.S. Navy’s mission.”

MUST focuses on strong industry and higher education partnerships to advance innovation. These partnerships connect top researchers with regional industry leaders' technological advances and expertise to execute novel solutions for governmental and private industry use. Higher education collaborators include Brown University, Michigan State University, MIT's Lincoln Lab, Scripps Institute of Oceanography, UMass Amherst, UMass Lowell, University of California Irvine, University of California Santa Barbara, University of Rhode Island, University of Virginia, and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. These projects feature dozens of faculty and more than 150 students. Partnerships also include industry partners like Amazon Robotics, BAE, Black and Vea Tech, Boston Engineering Cooperation, Huntington Ingalls Industries, Intellisense Systems, Inc., JAIA Robotics, MIKEL, and Teledyne Marine Systems. Many projects are coordinated through federal research agencies, including Air Force Research Lab, Albert Einstein Institute, NASA, NOAA, NSWC Carderock, and NUWC Newport.

"The Naval Undersea Warfare Center Division Newport values the strong partnerships it has maintained with our higher education institutions. The research they are conducting is essential in developing our next generation undersea warfare systems. Their work is in no small part helping to ensure we continue to advance the state-of-the-art in undersea warfare." said Ron Vien, Technical Director at the Naval Undersea Warfare Center Division Newport.

"I am grateful for the Office of Naval Research's continued support of MUST and our University's research endeavors," said Ramprasad Balasubramanian, Vice Chancellor for Research & Innovation and founding Director of the Marine and UnderSea Technology (MUST) research program. "MUST, through its collaborations between faculty at UMass Dartmouth and other researchers outside of the university, has already had an incredible impact on the scientific community. I look forward to our sustained success in marine science and technology."

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