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Joseph Naft Named Director of UMD Maryland Industrial Partnerships Program

Joseph Naft Named Director of UMD Maryland Industrial Partnerships Program

Pictured: Joseph Naft, director of the Maryland Industrial Partnerships program.
Pictured: Joseph Naft, director of the Maryland Industrial Partnerships program.

COLLEGE PARK, Md. — Joseph Naft, entrepreneur, aerospace engineer, physicist, computer scientist, CAD/IT expert, undergraduate research program director and consultant, long a behind-the-scenes pillar at the Maryland Technology Enterprise Institute (Mtech), has been named director of the Maryland Industrial Partnerships (MIPS) program, institute officials announce today.

The MIPS program accelerates innovation in Maryland by funding collaborative R&D projects between companies and University System of Maryland faculty to bring technology products closer to market. MIPS grants money, matched with company funds, to faculty engaged in each project.

Since 1987, MIPS funds have advanced more than 500 companies in Maryland and spurred successful commercial products such as Martek Biosciences’ nutritional oils, Hughes Communications’ HughesNet™, MedImmune’s Synagis®, Black & Decker’s Bullet® Speed Tip Masonry Drill Bit, WellDoc's mobile diabetes management platform, and CSA Medical's diseased-tissue ablation platform. MIPS-supported products have generated more than $25 billion in revenue.

Naft takes the reins after serving as associate director of MIPS since 2006. He replaces Martha Connolly, who was recently named director of bioentrepreneurship for UM Ventures at the University of Maryland, leveraging Mtech's expertise across campuses.

"Joseph Naft has guided long-standing initiatives supporting faculty, students, entrepreneurs and companies both at the university and in the region," said Mtech Director Peter Sandborn. "He is a proponent of MIPS, understands the inner workings of the program, and is a tireless advocate for companies and faculty researchers. His appointment is well-deserved."

Naft understands research and entrepreneurs. He's started two high-tech companies and was vice president of a third.

The first, Ramsearch, Naft co-founded with UMD Professor Michael Pecht, director of the Center for Advanced Life Cycle Engineering (CALCE). Ramsearch created and delivered to the U.S. Air Force a systems engineering software tool incorporating reliability and maintainability analyses. The company won $2 million in contracts. Naft sold the company to a partner.

The second company, Naftware, developed natural language information extraction systems for the NASA Ames Research Center and the National Science Foundation under three SBIR contracts.

"An important part of my preparation for MIPS is my entrepreneurial experience," said Naft. "You have 12 people on your staff and you have to make payroll every two weeks. I know the pressure you are under. I know what it is like to do a pro forma and go to a bank and get a line of credit for operating funds, and put your home up as collateral."

Naft also served as vice president for manufacturing software development for Fairmont, W.Va.-based Tygart Technologies, a role he took on part-time from 1994-1998. There, he conceived and created the architecture for GRIP, a Java/web-based intelligent purchasing and electronic commerce system for minimizing supply-chain subcontracting costs and enterprise-level manufacturing process planning.

He has also consulted for Fairmont-based ManTech International Corporation and Baltimore, Md.-based Environmental Elements Corporation.

Naft knows universities. He has no fewer than four academic degrees, including a B.S. in aerospace engineering and B.A. in psychology from Case Western Reserve University, an M.S. in physics from Vanderbilt University, and a B.S. in computer science from the University of Maryland.

Naft joined the University of Maryland Engineering Research Center (now Mtech) in 1984 after stints as a mechanical engineering group leader for the Boeing Company and as an assistant professor of physics at Nashville State Technical Institute. At first, he led a new computer-aided design laboratory to support UMD researchers, but soon became the center's director of information technology.

In 1998, Naft was selected to lead a program to fund undergraduate research called ASPIRE, short for A Scholars Program for Industry-Oriented Research in Engineering. Since then, the initiative has supported nearly 500 undergraduate engineering students through direct involvement in real-world engineering projects.

When MIPS started in 1987, Naft helped coordinate reviews of high-tech proposals, sometimes managing as many as ten at a time. He later designed and guided the development of the successful MIPS web-based proposal and review system, MIPStrack. In 2006, he was named associate director of MIPS.

"I want to grow the program," said Naft. "The MIPS model works wonderfully, putting the vast expertise and facilities of Maryland’s public universities to work for Maryland businesses. I want to maintain that outstanding record of success and grow it into a larger program. Maryland’s vibrant entrepreneurial sector presents us with great opportunities that warrant doubling the funding MIPS provides for technology-based product development. We are leaving too many promising projects on the table, projects with terrific commercial potential for our state with companies that are ready to contribute to the cost of those projects to develop new and innovative products."

About the Maryland Industrial Partnerships (MIPS) Program
MIPS, a program of the Maryland Technology Enterprise Institute (Mtech) in the A. James Clark School of Engineering at the University of Maryland, supports university-based research projects to help Maryland companies develop technology-based products. Commercial products benefiting from MIPS projects have generated more than $25.2 billion in revenue, added thousands of jobs to the region, and contributed to successful products such as Martek Biosciences’ nutritional oils, Hughes Communications’ HughesNet™, MedImmune’s Synagis®, and Black & Decker’s Bullet® Speed Tip Masonry Drill Bit.

February 10, 2014

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