A Norman based startup company, Next Frontier LLC, received nearly a million dollars in funding from US Department of Defense through the STTR program. Next Frontier LLC is focused on developing innovative software relevant to design of next generation hypersonic vehicles. Dr. Prakash Vedula is the Founder and CEO of Next Frontier LLC. He is also a Professor in the School of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering at University of Oklahoma (OU). His journey into exploration of high-impact fundamental research and entrepreneurship for the benefit of the local community and the nation at large is sure to inspire other entrepreneurs in the OU community.

Dr. Vedula and his research group pursue high-risk research relevant to fundamental discoveries and innovations in computational algorithms applicable to a broad class of complex systems in nature and engineering. One of the long-term objectives of his research is to enable development of intelligent and energy-efficient complex systems via integration of fundamental knowledge with fast and innovative algorithms for prediction control and sensor fusion for real-time applications.

His recent startup focuses on development of fast and innovative algorithms for prediction of complex flow behavior relevant to hypersonic flows. Product innovations relevant to these algorithms will not only enable efficient design of hypersonic vehicles but will also fill an important need in the context of national security. From recent news and events around the world, it appears that there has been increased emphasis to strengthen the US position in global hypersonic battlespace and Dr. Vedula believes that his company’s product could be a key player in this context.

At a community level, Dr. Vedula believes that there is a great opportunity to make an impact (beyond job creation) in the great state of Oklahoma. He thinks that the environment for entrepreneurship is very promising in Norman. He believes that such an entrepreneurship friendly environment could not have been possible without the visionary efforts of many leaders (and donors) in the university and local community. His company has close collaborations with the OU Gallogly College of Engineering and Tom Love Innovation Hub, Norman Economic Development Coalition and University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

Engineering dean Tom Landers says “the Gallogly College of Engineering leads the Norman campus in bringing scientific discoveries and technology to our innovation ecosystem through invention disclosures, patents and startups. Daniel Pullin, dean of Michael F. Price College of Business, said “Dr. Vedula’s intellectual leadership, energy, and enthusiasm are emblematic of the growing innovation ecosystem we are creating at the University of Oklahoma. His engagement with the Tom Love Innovation Hub and other collaborators is catalyzing the future economy of Oklahoma and advancing the global competitiveness of the nation.” Tom Wavering, Executive Director of Tom Love Innovation Hub, said “The mission of the Tom Love Innovation Hub is to increase innovation and entrepreneurship and Dr. Vedula is a great example of our model at work. We are so excited for his success and proud to have been a critical resource to help him realize his vision and secure SBIR/STTR funding for Next Frontier, LLC.”

Next Frontier LLC is also part of a business incubator program, Startup 405, operated by the Norman Economic Development Coalition (NEDC). Maureen Hammond, Vice President of NEDC said, “It is exciting to see the results of our joint efforts to cultivate entrepreneurial activity materialize through success stories such as Next Frontier LLC. Dr. Vedula’s leadership and commitment to research and development of his innovative products will have a considerable impact within the state of Oklahoma and nation, yielding job, knowledge and wealth creation.”

The abstract of Phase I award titled “Computational tools for reliable prediction of complex hypersonic flows, reads: In order to enable reliable predictions based on full scale vehicle simulations relevant to high-speed ISR missions, detailed interactions among various nonequilibrium physical phenomena and their coupling to turbulent flow structures, characterized by a broad range of length/time scales, need to be accurately modeled. Although detailed predictions can be obtained using detailed state-to-state kinetics in conjunction with numerical schemes of high order accuracy in space and time, the computational cost associated with it is prohibitively high. The focus of this STTR project is to address some challenges in existing tools for prediction of nonequilibrium laminar hypersonic flows via development of a high-order accurate hypersonic flow code with capabilities for both detailed state-to-state kinetics and reduced order models of state-to-state kinetics based on coarse graining. Novel contributions in this project include: (a) high-fidelity tools based on high-order accurate formulations of hypersonic flow predictions with detailed state kinetics, along with relevant code development and implementation, (b) development and implementation of low/variable fidelity tools based on novel coarse grained models for state-to-state kinetics, (c) development of modules for assessment of performance of reduced order models of state-kinetics and (d) development of criteria for model selection based on local flow and/or thermochemical nonequilibrium conditions.

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