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Fornax-AM CEO John Havermann Chats About Shaping a Start-Up at the Forefront of National Defense

Fornax-AM CEO John Havermann Chats About Shaping a Start-Up at the Forefront of National Defense
John Havermann,, President and CEO,, Fornax Advanced Materials

John Havermann cut his teeth leading research and development teams for information-related capabilities, delivery of mission-critical tools, radio-frequency weapons systems design and more at organizations like RTX, SAIC and General Dynamics.

More recently, he was vice president of spectrum dominance growth at Parsons, where he made strides in expanding the company’s offerings in the spectrum dominance, cyber and intelligence community markets. 

As of July 2023, Havermann is president and CEO of Fornax Advanced Materials. In this role, Havermann is deeply committed to securing Fornax as a go-to name in aerospace, defense and energy advanced materials manufacturing.

The busy leader recently sat down with ExecutiveBiz to give us a peek behind the curtain at his new company, explain how it’s responding to the national security threats of the day and shed some light on how Fornax is working to retain its talented team members.

At the Potomac Officers Club’s Achieving Transformative Cooperation for National Defense Forum, officials from various DOD components will converse with industry members from companies like SAIC and Red Hat about the new technologies needed for Combined Joint All-Domain Command and Control, or CJAD2. Register here for the March 14th in-person breakfast event.

Tell me about Fornax.

Fornax is a small business start-up that develops and manufactures lightweight, high-density products composed of advanced carbon, metallics and ceramic composite materials. We use electric Field Assisted Sintering Techniques, a.k.a. eFAST, to efficiently manufacture our products. An alternative to hot-pressing in a furnace, eFAST involves the contemporaneous use of uniaxial pressure and high-intensity, low-voltage, pulsed current to form and densify materials, particularly those considered difficult to sinter (e.g., extremely refractory materials, metastable phases, or nanomaterials). Our research and development approach includes alternative use of advanced materials to support missions of high consequence. At Fornax, we like to say that together with our customers, we are forging the future!

What are your target markets?

We focus our efforts on the energy, aerospace, defense and intelligence markets. Potential applications range from hypersonic flight surfaces; to light weight-high density armor plating; to nuclear reactor cladding; to shelters on the moon using lunar strata; to everything in between. If you can imagine it, it’s likely we can make it with demonstrated improvement in weight, density, purity and durability.

What do you think are the most pressing national security threats we’re facing today? How is your organization addressing these threats?

Decades of offshoring critical national infrastructure and capability have compromised the supply chain and emboldened our adversaries. Today, for example, the Asia-Pacific region dominates the global sintering market, led principally by China. Threats of this sort have informed the Department of Defense’s National Defense Science and Technology Strategy, which, in part, calls for creating and fielding innovative capabilities at speed and at scale, as well as bolstering American dominance in R&D. More specific to our operations, the department has proclaimed the need to “push the envelope with materials” and “scale up manufacturing.”

Fornax-AM addresses these threats by researching and developing advanced materials domestically and repatriating eFAST capability to the United States. Our research focuses on developing alternatives to minerals controlled by nation-state rivals while enabling the production of products with physical and material characteristics​ previously thought impossible to achieve. Our manufacturing techniques improve customer adoption by reducing embodied energy costs and processing time by up to 99 percent, CO2 emissions by up to 91 percent, post-processing requirements and manufacturing cycle times.

Tell me about Fornax’s culture. What aspects of the company do you think are contributing most to its success while helping to attract and retain top-level talent?

Our culture drives our value proposition for current and prospective employees. We prioritize customer delight, building trust by delivering on our promises. We challenge ourselves to anticipate and solve tomorrow’s toughest problems, advancing the state-of-the-art while pursuing the highest standards of excellence. We take ownership of our mistakes, working continuously to improve while embracing the highest ethical standards. We treat everyone with dignity and respect, promoting an environment where differences are celebrated.

​​What is Fornax’s approach to international collaboration?

Responding to the U.S. government’s focus on jointness, we work with Five Eye, coalition and TSC-authorized partners to truncate the research and development-to-deployment life cycle. Our approach promotes mission relevance by applying the latest material science innovations to address immediate and emerging needs across the globe.

In your opinion, what makes Fornax a place where the best and brightest want to work?

Fornax attracts those who thrive in collaborative, mission-focused environments. Our company celebrates imagination and scientific curiosity, recognizing these traits as foundational to developing revolutionary advanced material solutions that support our nation. We reject rigid management structures and embrace collaboration across an empowered workforce. Our investors follow the patient capital investment model, enabling Fornax to deeply penetrate targeted markets and offer long-term career opportunities.

What is your strategy for attracting and retaining top-level talent in the midst of ongoing talent shortages in today’s highly competitive market?

Our human capital strategy is multi-pronged. We scour academia and national research laboratories for scientific talent. We leverage relationships within the greater intelligence and defense communities to source functional and program management talent. We aspire to participate in transitioning veterans’ programs to identify personnel. And finally, cutting across these verticals, we work with local organizations to find talent of all types from within underrepresented communities.

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