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National Science Foundation bolsters research by financing FAU-FIU project

Florida Atlantic University has now become one of nine research centers nationwide to be supported by the National Science Foundation for research in the area of information technology, communication, and computing, after receiving a five-year grant intended for research and development.

The grant is intended to be used to create a site for the Center for Advanced Knowledge Enablement, which will provide the framework for university faculty and industry to pursue advanced research in their respective fields.

FAU is one of only two universities in Florida to receive this grant from the NSF. Florida International University in Miami-Dade County is the other.

FAU, while having mutually exclusive research, will operate jointly with the FIU center, which was formed last year.

“The new center represents the combines efforts of FAU and FIU researchers, and now has the critical mass to serve the information technology industry in South Florida and help it to mature into the top tier,” said Naphtali Rishe, director of FIU’s center.

The main objective of the advanced knowledge center is to develop long-term partnerships in industry, government and academia, while providing high-quality industry research, strong industrial support and collaboration in research and education and direct transfer of university developed ideas, research and technology to U.S. industry.

“Many companies have low resources for research. CAKE is designed to help provide access to these resources.” said Borko Fuhrt, chair, department of computer and electrical engineering and director of the FAU center. “This is a win-win situation for both our university, and our industry and government partners.”

Affiliation with and membership to FAU’s center is open to industry, government agencies and others with research needs. It will provide these partners with numerous benefits, such as early access to research innovations, as well as the opportunity to interact and work with faculty, students, and industry peers. Currently, there are 50 National Science Foundation-sponsored industry-university cooperative research centers in the United States.

The center was created by an investment from the science foundation and will range from $307,000 to $750,000 over five years and will be supported primarily by center members. These members will have access to and benefit from the results of all of the center’s projects financed by the membership fees.

“The structure and format of the membership program creates a multiplier effect,” Furht said. “For example, a member paying a fee of $24,000 will be able to benefit from at least $300,000 worth of research.”

In addition, FAU’s center can accept funds from any government agency with only a nominal overhead fee, through an intra-government transfer mechanism run by the National Science Foundation.

Funds can be directed to any aspect of the center's research, even if the work only benefits the industrial members. The funds also can be used for collaborative research with industry members serving as sub-contractors.

“This center is a great opportunity for South Florida’s high-tech community,” Jaime Borras, former corporate vice president of Motorola and current chairman of Mobile Technology Consortium, said in a press release.

Motorola is one of many companies that have already made a commitment to join the center. Others include LexisNexis, ProntoProgress, RealNetworks and Partner Community. Some of the areas of research being conducted by the center include defense, homeland security, healthcare and biomedical science, environmental science, finance and technology services.

The National Science Foundation will play a supporting role in the development and evolution of the center and its members. While its actual interaction will be limited, there will be an annual meeting every Dec. 11 to review the research conduct and progress made thus far.

“I expect the grant to attract more research funding from the industry. The center establishes a simpler framework for collaborative research between FAU and the industry. I think the center will spur the growth of hi-tech startups around FAU,” said Hari Kalva, one of the co-principal investigators at the center.




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