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Riverside Research to open $7M lab expansion

Riverside Research’s $7 million expansion of its center in Beavercreek includes a multi-disciplinary laboratory environment where researchers will work to advance state-of-the-art technologies for the U.S. government.

Research areas will include space propulsion and communications; non-invasive brain injury assessment; electronic warfare methods; and multi-sensor surveillance and reconnaissance, company officials said.

The centerpiece of the facility is a plasma chamber, which can simulate space environments, Riverside Research President and CEO Richard Annas said.

As a spacecraft re-enters the earth’s atmosphere, air molecules break apart producing an electrically charged plasma around the vehicle. That plasma prevents the spacecraft from being able to send or receive communications for three or four minutes during re-entry.

Riverside Research wants to explore some new types of research in hopes of addressing the issue.

“The government is very interested in that. Obviously, any of our systems that fly at those hypersonic speeds need to have that capability — a big challenge. It’s brand new leading-edge work for us and we’re thrilled to be in on the ground floor,” Annas said.

Annas said the 30,000-square-foot expansion that opens Thursday will create 60 jobs over the next three to four years.

Officials said the new facility includes a 20,200-square-foot “Open Innovation Center” that brings together the New York City-based defense contractor’s engineering and research capabilities in a secure, collaborative environment where they can be shared with community members. It includes labs for high-density plasma, optical laser and sensors, computational electromagnetics, radio frequency and cyber security research.

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“No other company here in Dayton has got this kind of total lab facility where all the research is concentrated to bring it to bear in one area to the customer,” Annas said.

The expanded space also features a 1,500-square-foot corporate data center for all company locations, as well as additional office space and a contract proposal-writing suite.

This newspaper toured the expansion in advance of its public debut Thursday at an invitation-only open house.

Riverside Research is headquartered in New York City, where the independent, not-for-profit corporation was launched in 1967 as an spin-off from Columbia University. The company is chartered to advance scientific research in the public interest and in support of the U.S. government.

“The center of gravity for the company has moved significantly westward,” Annas said.

The Beavercreek facility represents Riverside Research’s largest geographic concentration in the U.S. The Dayton Research Center is home to about 230 of the company’s nearly 600 employees. Riverside Research also has offices in Florida, Illinois, Massachusetts and Virginia.

Annas declined to disclose the company’s revenues.

Riverside Research opened its first Dayton-area office in 1998 to pursue contracts related to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. In 2010, the company consolidated workers from several Dayton-area locations to it current facility at 2640 Hibiscus Way in Beavercreek.

“We had maxed-out the usable space here in this building — we even had people sitting in closets,” Annas said, regarding the need to expand. Several “key contracts” last year with WPAFB made it easier to justify the $7 million investment, he said.

Three employees will move to the facility from other locations; the rest of the 60 additional jobs will be newly created positions.

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“We’ll have to hire researchers, engineers, people with some exotic degrees to do some of that leading-edge research to support our customers’ questions,” Annas said.

The Open Innovation Center is a new concept for the company, combining engineering services and research capabilities to offer customers a total solution. It includes “hard lab” space for physical research with lasers, sensors, vacuums and electromagnetic devices, as well as “soft lab” areas for computer-based software projects, said Jim Whitten, director of security and facilities.

The hard lab areas are designed for experiments to build on one another, so changes can be made without having to redesign an entire lab, said Rodger Menozzi, a company architect and engineer.

Open-seating office space upstairs from the labs allows researchers to examine data from their experiments and encourages cooperation across scientific disciplines, Menozzi said.

Annas, a retired Air Force colonel from WPAFB, has been with Riverside Research for 13 years and served as president for the last five. He resides in Bellbrook and divides his time between Dayton and New York.

In July, Annas announced that he will retire from the company in January 2016.

Annas and his wife, who retired last week from the U.S. government, plan to do volunteer work, travel and “be more of an impact” to their two children as they go through college and get out into real world, he said.

“It is really difficult for me to make this decision because this has really been a great opportunity for me. The company is doing very well. I wouldn’t be leaving it if I didn’t know that it was on very stable footing. But I’m going to miss the intellectual stimulation and working with the people,” Annas said.

As a not-for-profit, Riverside Research pursues “high-end” projects and tends to “fly under the radar screen” in the region, Annas said. However, the company’s newly expanded facility, WPAFB contract wins, and partnerships with area colleges and universities all look to elevate its profile.

“We want the universities in here, we want the government in here, we want our own people in here. It will be a completely collaborative effort,” Annas said.

This article was written by Dave Larsen from The Dayton Daily News and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

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