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Knight Foundation’s $10M gift to FIU to accelerate tech ecosystem and develop IT talent base


By David Schwartz
Published: March 2nd, 2021

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation has made a $10 million gift to Florida International University’s School of Computing and Information Sciences to develop technical talent at scale to meet the demands of industry.

The investment will catalyze the development of the local tech ecosystem by attracting top faculty researchers in areas such as artificial intelligence, smart robotics, bioinformatics, biodevices, and digital forensics. The funds will also be used to increase the number of FIU graduates entering these sectors and strengthen collaboration with industry. In recognition of this gift, FIU will name the Knight Foundation School of Computing and Information Sciences in the College of Engineering & Computing (CEC).

“Together with the Knight Foundation and our local and state elected officials, we are seizing this opportunity,” said FIU President Mark B. Rosenberg. “This partnership will help us leverage all that already exists at FIU, add important intellectual capital, work with industry, and give our city and our state a key hub of talent and innovation.”

Already a top producer of minority STEM graduates and with nearly $200 million of annual research expenditures in this area, FIU has committed to making an additional investment of $106 million over the next decade in its advanced computation initiative, which includes the construction of a new multi-disciplinary engineering building.

The new engineering building will be equipped with makerspace labs, active learning classrooms and research laboratories in proximity to university talent, including the Academic Health Center. Of the Knight Foundation’s investment, $3.5 million will outfit 20,000 square feet of interactive research and teaching space with best-in-class computing and prototyping equipment.

“Miami is emerging as an international tech hub, both through the success of local start-ups and the recent influx of companies and investors. Demand for technical talent is rising, and we’re just at the beginning of the trajectory,” said Alberto Ibargüen, Knight Foundation president and CEO. “This investment will assure that there will be a deep pool of talent for Miami’s growing tech sector while creating opportunities for Miamians of all backgrounds.”

A Knight Foundation representative will be appointed to the school’s new leadership board, which is actively recruiting industry leaders committed to strengthening South Florida’s tech sector.

“Now more than ever, technology and innovation are propelling economic growth and crossing barriers to overcome global challenges,” said John. L. Volakis, dean of the College of Engineering & Computing at FIU. “These investments will ensure that the talent we cultivate, the interdisciplinary research we participate in, and our industry collaborations drive the innovative solutions of tomorrow.”

Knight’s grant also will support the redesign of the engineering career advising programs, enhance the undergraduate curriculum and boost the school’s four-year graduation rate to accelerate the flow of talent to industry. FIU also regularly evaluates its degree offerings to meet industry needs. For example, in 2017, FIU launched the first bachelor’s degree in the Internet of Things (IoT). Since then, other new academic paths include a graduate degree in IoT as well as cybersecurity, data analytics and digital media. In addition, university-wide efforts around artificial intelligence, data analysis and emotional intelligence are underway.

The grant will support the community and national demand for increased research and top-flight professionals in the fields of engineering and computer sciences, including the hiring of 20 new faculty members. That move is projected to facilitate a 160% increase in sponsored research and attract 80 additional PhD students.  The school will integrate its activities with industry to ensure that its curriculum, research, graduates and other programs spur the field forward.

Source: FIU News

Posted under: University-Industry Engagement Week

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