LAKELAND, Fla. – Florida Polytechnic University President Dr. Randy K. Avent presented to the State University System Board of Governors today plans for the new university’s next major campus development – an Applied Research Center (ARC). The ARC will unite students, faculty and industry partners in the pursuit of cutting-edge research to advance technology and catalyze economic growth in Florida.
“With more high school graduates choosing to enroll at Florida Poly, our students and faculty are outgrowing existing classrooms and offices,” said Avent. “The ARC will support Florida Poly’s project-based curriculum, open much-needed space and continue to fulfill the strategic plans that state legislators and university leaders have for building an institution devoted to STEM education.”
“One of the biggest ways Florida Poly can drive economic development in the state of Florida is by driving entrepreneurship and by conducting applied research for near-term impact,” said Avent. “We have only one academic building on campus. We are rapidly outgrowing that space with enrollment hitting over 1,300 this semester. The Applied Research Center will ensure students, faculty and industry partners have the appropriate space to pursue projects and conduct advanced research.”
Florida Poly’s oval-shaped campus encircles seven ponds with classrooms, offices and research facilities along the western rim and student living and activity space along the eastern rim. The ARC will sit directly adjacent to the existing Innovation, Science and Technology Building where Avent noted students and faculty are already “cannibalizing” existing classrooms and offices to work on research projects. With student enrollment growing, the university is also bringing on new faculty who will need work space.
The ARC will directly support near-term growth and development by housing research for the recently announced SunTrax autonomous and connected vehicles project, a partnership between Florida Poly and the Florida Department of Transportation. The ARC will also include an Institute for Technology Entrepreneurship, a Healthcare Informatics Center, a Center for Applied Economic Research and a cybersecurity lab. The estimated cost to build the facility is $35.3 million. During the 2016 legislative session, Florida lawmakers and Governor Rick Scott approved $5 million for the planning of the ARC through PECO funding, and the university provided $5 million in matching funds. Florida Poly is requesting the remaining $25.3 million in its 2017-2018 Legislative Budget Request.
The expected return on investment to the state of Florida and the central Florida region will come from an anticipated investment of millions of dollars from industry-funded research leading to high-wage, high-tech jobs. Additionally, the ARC will focus on STEM programs that address the SUS Board of Governors’ strategic emphasis and the State’s desire to advance the STEM segment of Florida’s economy. Florida Poly faculty and students are currently conducting research with industry partners, and the campus is expecting to enroll more than 1,700 students by fall 2019. Florida Poly students are all required to conduct research beginning their freshman year.
“The Applied Research Center is a critical enabler for supporting students, faculty and industry with a focus on quality research programs,” said Florida Poly Provost Dr. Terry Parker. “The addition of the center will be a much needed resource for our current students and will attract future Florida Poly innovators.”