HOLLYWOOD, Md. (January 10, 2019)—Dr. Robert Caret, Chancellor of the University System of Maryland (USM), told community stakeholders last week that when his organization takes over the reins at the Southern Maryland Higher Education Center in just a few months, the transformation will be a harbinger of innovation and prosperity.
The key piece to making that happen, he said, was the construction of the long-awaited third building at the higher education center (SMHEC) that will be a hub for research and development for unmanned and autonomous systems that can be transferred to the commercial market.
The aim, Caret said, speaking at SMHEC Jan. 4, was to diversify the local economy and provide a place where local defense industry talent could find a home rather than looking to other communities for the next challenge.
"This will become our third regional center," Caret said, adding that such centers were far more than places for academic study, they were centers for entrepreneurship.
He said the centers USM currently runs are responsible for between 300 and 400 inventions a year created by students that result in about 50 patents a year.
What's more those same students are encouraged in starting businesses that apply these innovations to the marketplace.
"A lot of exciting things are related to technology transfer," Caret said to a full conference room at SMHEC. "A lot of this is being done by students themselves."
The new research hub at SMHEC would also help serve the needs of the defense related work force already in the region by providing skilled employees and new technologies related to cyber security and data analytics, among other in-demand skills.
Dr. Darryll Pines, head of the USM A. James Clark School of Engineering, said the third building could become a center for technological revolution.
"It's to develop skills for people in the region to go out and change the world," Pines said. "That's how I see the vision for this building."
Pines estimated that the unmanned and autonomous technology base represented a $2.5 billion market in Maryland with more than 2,000 jobs.
Observers at the meeting said the sheer number of officials, from the USM on down to elected leaders, helped to dispel concerns that the third building might never be constructed.
Both Sen. Jack Bailey and Del. Brian Crosby attended as well as a significant number of leadership from USM. Many from the defense industry came as did others from educational institutions.
Glen Ives, a member of the SMHEC Board of Governors, said the move to bring USM to St. Mary's started 10 years ago with bringing in the unmanned vehicle test site next to the county airport.
Thereafter, Ives said, the momentum began to build for the USM to move more fully into the county.
"It made a lot of sense… with what we believed SMHEC could do," Ives said. "It's incredible to see where we are today.
"[USM] is a $6 billion enterprise coming down to St. Mary's County; that has to be a good thing."
The coming of USM with the third building could provide another economic engine to compliment the naval air station.
"They are that engine," Ives said. "They're that fuel to take us to that next level.
"The University System of Maryland has been on board since the beginning; there shouldn't be any doubt in anyone's mind that they are committed to this."
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