UCF Launches Applied Research Institute to Tackle Global Challenges

UCF Launches Applied Research Institute to Tackle Global Challenges

Randall Shumaker

The University of Central Florida Research Foundation has established an institute to assist in securing large collaborative research projects and enhance the university’s interdisciplinary work and growing partnerships.

The UCF Applied Research Institute will help the university coordinate multidisciplinary responses to major projects and strengthen research across campus.

By doing so, university leaders say the new institute will help bridge the technology “valley of death” – the chasm that often occurs between basic research and innovation. For example, large government projects are fundamentally complex and require multiple types of technology from multiple disciplines.

“As UCF’s research program matures and we identify areas of distinctive impact and unique strengths, this new applied research institute will play a critical role in helping our faculty pursue interdisciplinary projects focused on tackling today’s biggest scientific and societal challenges,” said UCF Provost and Executive Vice President Dale Whittaker.

The institute will create a centralized location where faculty members can team together to apply for grants, and where students can find resources, training and research opportunities in areas where funding is available.

Randall Shumaker, director of UCF’s Institute for Simulation and Training, has been appointed interim director for the new Applied Research Institute.

“As a former senior civilian leader for the U.S. Navy, I see the immense value of providing a university-applied research organization to support industry and national security needs,” Shumaker said. “We are already in discussions with partners that we will work with to transition UCF’s basic research into new concepts and applications.”

Many other large universities have developed applied research institutes to pursue government contracts and large research efforts, such as the University of Illinois, Johns Hopkins University and Georgia Institute of Technology. These institutes are largely federally funded, employ primarily 12-month research faculty and pursue contracts versus grants.

UCF’s institute will initially focus on areas that align with Florida’s economic development needs, such as photonics, modeling and simulation, engineering and biomedicine. 

Shumaker said he is looking for a permanent location for the institute, which will operate out of his office at IST for the interim period. The institute will support itself with revenue from new projects.