To break new ground in alternative energy; increase educational opportunities for the military community; and bolster science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) outreach, the Department of the Navy and the Office of Naval Research have launched the Naval Enterprise Partnership Teaming with Universities for National Excellence initiative, or NEPTUNE.
NEPTUNE is a two-year pilot program providing funding to four universities, the U.S. Naval Academy and the Naval Postgraduate School. Its goals are to help the Navy and Marine Corps discover ways to improve energy conservation, generate renewable energy and implement energy-efficient technologies-while giving active-duty military, military students and veterans the chance to immerse themselves in university-level research.
"Supporting research that targets key military and national energy challenges is a vital component of ONR's mission, driving technology advancements," said Dr. Richard Carlin, head of ONR's Sea Warfare and Weapons Department. "However, creating a culture of energy innovation requires a parallel professional development effort to implement such advancements.
"By ensuring active-duty military, military students and veterans participate in NEPTUNE, that culture of innovation will be created within the ranks-and maintained by future military professionals as they enter active duty or Reserve service."
The first two schools to receive funding from NEPTUNE are Purdue University, which is using the money to establish its onsite NEPTUNE Center for Power and Energy Research, and Arizona State University.
NEPTUNE will make awards to two additional universities in the near future. All institutions are being chosen on the basis of strong science and engineering research programs and a commitment to serving current, former and future members of the military.
"This is a very exciting pilot program because it will help the Navy and Marine Corps explore new areas of energy innovation," said ONR Program Manager Maria Medeiros, who oversees NEPTUNE. "It also will empower military students-who in many cases already have impressive real-world experience and accomplishments-to complete their degrees or even start new courses of study."
NEPTUNE aligns with the vision of Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus, who has made it a top priority to change the way the Navy and Marine Corps use, produce and acquire energy. Both services are working toward converting half of their energy consumption to alternative sources, including biofuels, by 2020. These fuels also must work in diesel engines.
NEPTUNE will work toward similar goals as ONR's Energy Systems Technology Evaluation Program, or ESTEP, which places student veterans interested in engineering and technology into working internships within various Navy organizations. Participants gain hands-on skills and experiences as they advance energy research for the Navy and Marine Corps.
Through efforts like NEPTUNE, the Navy and ONR recognize that a healthy STEM workforce is critical to meeting the Navy and Marine Corps' greatest challenges. By working to improve STEM education, ONR is inspiring a new generation of scientists and engineers to consider careers and professional opportunities in support of the Navy and Marine Corps.