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Nancy Smith

$10 Million Awarded to 11 Universities to Retool Florida's Economic Future

November 15, 2010 - 6:00pm

Looking to help Florida slingshot out of this recession, State University System Chancellor Frank Brogan announced Monday the project winners from all 11 of Floridas public universities. Universities competed for a share of $10 million in the final phase of the New Florida Initiative.

NFI is a program designed to use the higher education system to transform the states economic portfolio -- broaden its economic base in ways that will yield a high return on investment.

Brogan and Board of Governors Chairwoman Ava Parker met with the press in Tallahassee to explain the State University Systems unique partnership with the Legislature.

Floridas economic history has been dependent on agriculture and tourism, Brogan said. And we dont want to do anything that would stand in their way. May they prosper forever. But it is clear that a more diverse, sustainable economy is needed.

This is what prompted us in January 2010 to launch New Florida Initiative in partnership with the Florida Legislature.

Brogan described the program as a multi-year endeavor that will ensure Floridas innovation economy is knowledge-based sustained by high-technology, high-wage jobs in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM, as he called it).

He stressed that he has discussed the program with Gov.-elect Rick Scott, who is not only supportive, he is as excited as we are about the possibilities.

Brogan called NFI a page from a much larger book. He said, This $10 million is demonstration money. The Legislature is saying, Go show us what you can do.

New Florida Initiative seeks to double the state university system budget to $4 billion by 2015. The idea isnt to abandon the arts and humanities, he said, but to invest half the new money in fostering research in the fields most closely associated with knowledge-based economies STEM.

We know it can be done, Brogan said. Other states have done it.

He was referring in particular to North Carolina, where half a century ago lawmakers invested heavily in higher-education diversity tactics to replace an increasingly struggling economy based on textiles and tobacco. Today, along with California, North Carolina leads the nation in research, development and all manner of innovation technologies and the high-end employment they spur.

The two categories of grant winners announced Monday clustering grants and scholars boost grants include 31 projects with 45 monetary awards totaling $10 million.

All universities applied and were selected for different projects that amplify and accelerate existing programs or create new academic benchmarks.

Many of the 31 projects include at least two state universities collaborating, and many have three working together.

Though the limit was $10 million total, as allocated in non-recurring funds by the Legislature, there were 93 critical needs projects submitted, requesting a total of $32.4 million.

Among the winners:

The first formal collaborative activity among state universities to study and model climate change: $175,000 for Florida Atlantic University, $100,000 for Florida State University and $125,000 for the University of Florida

A unified approach for enhancing aerospace research, education and workforce training: $150,000 for FSU and $225,000 for the University of Central Florida

Working with public and private entities, the University of West Florida will focus its entire institution on the challenges associated with aging, especially in the Florida Panhandle: $350,000.

Total money awarded by university: FAMU, $450,000; FAU, $725,000; FGCU, $400,000; FIU, $900,000; FSU, $1,300,000; UCF, $1,275,000; UF, $2,450,000; UNF, $375,000; USF, $1,475,000; UWF, $350,000.

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Reach Nancy Smith at nsmith@sunshinestatenews.com or at (850) 727-0859.

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