WABI interviews Dagher about saving lives with local innovation

WABI (Channel 5) interviewed Habib Dagher, founding executive director of the Advanced Structures and Composites Center, about the impacts of ballistic technology developed at the University of Maine. “I was in my office, and I got a call one day,” Dagher said. “Someone from the Army, someone in Afghanistan that said, ‘thank you very much. You’ve just saved a number of lives.’ You don’t get too many calls like this every day.” The portable Modular Ballistic Protection System, which has been in development for more than a decade, includes ballistic panels that convert tents — an Army staple — into blast resistant shelters. The Advanced Structures and Composites Center has also yielded local benefits, sparking successful commercialization of technologies developed at the center by two Brewer businesses. Compotech produces a commercial version of the ballistic panel that is marketed to the Department of Defense as an expeditionary system, and Advanced Infrastructure Technologies (AIT) produces bridge systems using Bridge in a Backpack components and 3D printed girders. Ken Sweeney, president and CEO of AIT, recognizes that a number of his competitors allocate significant resources to research and development to remain on the leading edge and ensure success. “What we have with the university is innovation right here in Maine,” Sweeney said. To Dagher, that’s just part of the mission. “The goal is to save lives at the end of the day, educate students, and create jobs,” he said.