Partnering with Next-Gen Talent to Pioneer Next-Gen Solutions

August 2021
Topics: Partnerships, Cybersecurity, Artificial Intelligence, Joint Operations
Today’s complex national security and public-sector problems need fresh perspectives. MITRE’s strategic partnerships with leading universities bring complementary connections, investments, and scale to accelerate solutions.
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Working with a Texas university on artificial-intelligence innovations. Leveraging the talents of college students in Florida to support warfighters. Collaborating with Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) on cyber education and training.

When it comes to partnering with academia, MITRE has a long history. But what do these diverse engagements have in common?

They’re all strategic partnerships, designed to leverage talent from leading U.S. universities. And they’re a key component of our strategic engagements with academia, industry, and association partners to facilitate solving some of our nation’s most challenging problems.

These collaborations focus on creating higher impact through joint research, talent development, and contribution to local communities and their economies.

“We’ve made intentional strategic decisions to partner with this diverse set of universities because of the power of both the universities’ networks and ours,” says Jim Cook, MITRE vice president for strategic engagement partnerships.

“These relationships are about more than pursuing work for intellectual curiosity. They’re focused on transformational outcomes that can best be achieved together.”

Bringing AI Education to All Disciplines

Take the partnership between MITRE and University of Texas San Antonio (UTSA). What began as a collaboration for developing cyber experts now includes a national science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) initiative to cultivate cyber skills well before college—starting in kindergarten.

One of the most powerful outcomes from this partnership is Generation AI Nexus, or Gen AI. Gen AI strives to teach college students across disciplines about AI practices and tools. The long-range goal? A diverse U.S. workforce prepared for and confident in applying AI skills.

Some 2,000 UTSA students have benefited from Gen AI lessons, with partner universities now providing the curriculum across majors.

The engagement has yielded some unplanned benefits. Dr. Bernard Arulanandam, UTSA’s vice president for research, economic development, and knowledge enterprise, says, “MITRE influenced integration of AI education across UTSA and led to a cluster hiring effort in AI and establishment of the Matrix AI Institute for Human Well-being.

“The partnership with MITRE truly influenced investment and commitment to growing AI as an area of excellence at UTSA.”

Purdue: Increasing Impact Across Technical Fields

MITRE’s new partnership with Purdue University aims to accelerate innovations in national security and safety. Together, we’re addressing challenges ranging from cyber and avionics to data science and quantum computing.

Already, MITRE and Purdue researchers are promoting transformational new cyber capabilities and workforce development through initiatives like the annual Software Security “Summer” School.

We’re also collaborating to create more resilient systems for our government sponsors—and stay ahead of cyber adversaries. These efforts inspired significant joint work in cybersecurity with the Office of Naval Research.

Additionally, the relationship supports our broader goal of helping close the common gap between early-stage concept and deployment of an adoptable solution.

Theresa Mayer, Purdue’s executive vice president for research and partnerships, says, “Based on the potential for multiple avenues of collaboration, we’re already exploring options for the presence of MITRE personnel at Purdue’s Convergence Center, as well as opportunities for Purdue personnel to collaborate with teams on site at MITRE.

“Extending MITRE’s on-site presence will allow for in-depth engagement between students, faculty, and others, helping to grow more entrepreneurial pathways between academia, government, and industry. It will address critical workforce development gaps, as well as accelerate the process of transitioning research ideas into practical solutions.”

National Defense: New Ways to Support Warfighters

In Miami, our partnership with Florida International University (FIU) supports a government sponsor in a way we couldn’t alone. Leveraging both MITRE and university staff and intellectual property, we’re helping to characterize information more effectively in the U.S. Southern Command’s area of responsibility. This provides better situational awareness to warfighters.

In other national defense work, service academy students are providing systems engineering support to the Joint All-Domain Command and Control construct. Under the guidance of senior officers with recent operational experience, students are helping MITRE move the DoD and Intelligence Community toward true, multi-domain warfighting operations.  

MITRE engineer Craig Doescher says, “As we’re teaching our country’s future military leaders this new concept, the students bring methodology and tools that make us better. And we bring them the current, critical problems our sponsors are working on.”

Consortiums: Multiplied Benefits through Broader Networks

Beyond collaborations with individual universities, MITRE also partners with broader academic networks, known as consortiums. Though always intended to deliver long-term outcomes, some yield faster impact than others.

For example, early in the COVID-19 pandemic, MITRE worked with the 120+ universities of the Oak Ridge Associated Universities (ORAU) to provide critical support for tracking virus spread at colleges nationwide.

Currently, ORAU partners are building an AI roadmap to address things like AI bias and ensuring equitable technology distribution in the education system. The effort brings together key stakeholders across government, academia, and industry.

We’ve also partnered with the consortium Advancing Minorities’ Interest in Engineering. Drawing on our work with FIU, we’re bringing the MITRE ATT&CK® cyber defense framework and MITRE-developed tool CALDERA™ to the consortium’s HBCUs. A comprehensive micro-credentialing program provides students with the latest industry cyber techniques—to prepare them for real-world threats.

Other such partnerships include our collaboration with four Virginia universities and the Virginia Space Grant Consortium. The University Innovation Exchange for Space uses space-based remote sensing data to tackle Virginia’s enterprise-level problems, from monitoring river pollution to assessing wildfire risk. MITRE applies deep systems thinking and research focus alongside our partners, who bring extensive niche expertise in different areas.

“The Real Benefits Are Yet to Come”

Each member of these partnerships brings special attributes. At the same time, MITRE’s interdisciplinary insights and unbiased perspective help shape our approach to creating networks of strategic partners, from both academia and industry, to accelerate problem-solving.

And we’re just getting started.

“Despite all we’ve accomplished, the real benefits are yet to come, because transformation takes time,” Cook says. “We’ve built momentum, engagement, and energy. With the nature of current challenges in cyber, healthcare, and the Great Power Competition, as well as the current administration’s R&D focus, universities play a key role in innovation.”

“I’m excited about the foundation we’ve laid and what we can accomplish together, along with our industry partnerships, over the next few years.”

by Denise Schiavone

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