Director of Key DoD Research Programs Visits the University

Group discusses and looks at a presentation in a conference room

On January 17, 2024, the Research and Innovation Office (RIO) facilitated a visit by Kim Spangler, director of the Department of Defense (DoD) Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program (SERDP) and the Environmental Security Technology Certification Program (ESTCP), who was joined by colleagues Deputy Director Andrea Leeson and communications associate Laura Mack.

During her time on campus, Spangler visited the St. Anthony Falls Lab, met with Rolf Weberg of the Natural Resources Research Institute, and Jessica Hellmann and Melissa Kenney of the Institute on the Environment as well as Professor Marc Hillmyer, Director of the Center for Sustainable Polymers and Professor Cari Dutcher, Mechanical Engineering and Chemical Engineering and Material Sciences.

Members of the research community gathered at Walter Library to hear Spangler give an overview of SERDP and ESTCP, which facilitate research and discovery for the Department of Defense. SERDP funds research and development efforts to address priority environmental challenges for the DoD, and ESTCP funds demonstration and validation efforts to transition environmental and energy technologies out of the lab and into the field.

Last year the DoD funneled over $211 million through these two research programs, and SERDP funded 91 federal performers, 77 academic institutions, 52 industry partners, and 58 top-ranked universities, with funded research cited 10 times more than the average publication. Spangler gave these programs credit for helping get tech out to the field twice as fast as traditional routes.

Current focus areas include PFAS cleanup, particularly for firefighting foams that have used PFAS compounds, and replacement materials; restoration of lands around military installations; resilience of DoD installations; resource conservation; installation energy innovation; resilient water systems; UXO response and remediation; and weapons systems and platforms. ESTCP released a solicitation on January 4, 2024, and researchers interested in securing funding are welcomed to join an informational webinar on January 23.

Spangler came to campus at the invitation of Vice President for Research and Innovation Shashank Priya, who has been highlighting the University’s many capabilities relevant to SERDP’s work, including environmental cleanup and remediation, sustainable materials, and renewable energy. On the afternoon of the 18th, Dr. Spangler and VP Priya visited with researchers at 3M to share organizational priorities.