U of A Research a Key Factor in Defense and Tech Company's Decision to Move to Arkansas

Congressman Steve Womack speaks at a recent event announcing plans for an Xtremis, Inc., laboratory.
University Relations

Congressman Steve Womack speaks at a recent event announcing plans for an Xtremis, Inc., laboratory.

The University of Arkansas' research expertise, a welcoming and innovative business environment and ready access to U of A graduates helped attract a rapidly growing defense and technology startup to Arkansas.

Xtremis Inc. is working with the university to develop a unique open-air laboratory in southern Washington County for the advancement of electromagnetic spectrum technologies such as wireless networks. The initiative is supported by the U.S. Army Pathfinder program, Winrock International and the Civil Military Innovation Institute.

Plans for the laboratory, called the Devil's Den Proving Ground, were unveiled Monday, April 22, at an event featuring U.S. Rep. Steve Womack, Arkansas National Guard Maj. Gen. Jonathan Stubbs and U of A leadership. As envisioned, the laboratory will become a unique national resource that elevates both Arkansas and the U.S. to the forefront of spectrum-related applied research for civilian and military applications.

Xtremis expects to hire up to 75 highly paid employees over the next three years and more than 200 in five years' time.

"Our partnership with Xtremis is a great example of how U of A expertise and capability create positive economic impact for our state," said Mike Malone, vice chancellor for economic development. "We're providing leading-edge research and access to a highly trained and motivated workforce in our graduates, and that's attracting innovative businesses to Arkansas."

Xtremis selected the Washington County site in large part to capitalize on radiofrequency engineering expertise at the U of A — specifically, the research group led by Samir El-Ghazaly, Distinguished Professor of electrical engineering.

"Professor El-Ghazaly's groundbreaking work in radio-frequency engineering is leading to breakthrough technologies that strengthen and protect U.S. soldiers," said Margaret Sova McCabe, vice chancellor for research and innovation, "and his research in high-frequency communications has near-limitless application for optimizing performance in everyday technologies such as electric vehicles and consumer electronics. It's a shining example of how U of A research is making a positive difference for our citizens and our world."

Xtremis is a venture capital-backed startup business spun out of Vanderbilt University to commercialize a portfolio of spectrum sensing and management technologies developed in conjunction with two Grand Challenges sponsored by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. The unique Ozark topography of the Devil's Den Proving Ground site is ideal for testing and refining these technologies.

Renderings of the Devil's Den Proving Ground campus by Marlon Blackwell Architects, Distinguished Professor at the U of A and E. Fay Jones Chair in Architecture, gave a sense of the scope for the project. Once developed, the Devil's Den Proving Ground will feature:

  • A state-of-the-art radio-frequency laboratory that incorporates a combination of virtual and physical (indoor and open-air) test environments, including a large-scale anechoic chamber;

  • Specialized test equipment;

  • A novel radio-frequency channel emulator platform based on the DARPA Colosseum testbed; and

  • Clean room capabilities.

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