Florida has a plan.
"The Florida Advanced Manufacturing Research Center will make Osceola County and the Orlando region a leader in the development and manufacturing of next-generation universal smart sensors, bringing in thousands of new high-wage and highly skilled jobs and providing Florida with an unmatched global competitive advantage for advanced manufacturing,” said Rick Weddle, CEO of the Orlando Economic Development Commission.
To reach that goal, earlier this month the University of Central Florida announced it will partner with Osceola County and the Florida High Tech Corridor Council to establish a state-of-the-art research and incubation facility focused on the next generation of universal smart sensors.
The center will be the home of research aimed at advancing technologies that will shape the future of automobiles, surgical devices, home appliances and a host of other devices.
The world smart sensors market is projected to reach $7.8 billion by next year, according to Global Industry Analysts Inc., and global demand is expected to increase dramatically in the years to come.
“We’ve asked ourselves for years what comes next after Medical City and it’s this infrastructure project,” said Weddle. “This is how the communities of the future are being built and this is what technology-led economic development is all about.”
UCF researchers have developed sensors capable of a range of applications – from detecting hydrogen and specific chemicals in the air to reading oxygen in the blood – and are also creating the materials that will enable sensors to be integrated into ever-smaller computer chips.
UCF is set to provide $10 million – from non-state and non-tuition sources – to help design and build the center and for start-up costs, as well as an additional $7 million for focused faculty hires.
The center will be built on 20 acres owned by Osceola County and the county will invest $61 million for design, construction and equipment costs associated with the 100,000-square-foot center. UCF will lease the building for $1 a year for 30 years and will operate the center.
The Florida High Tech Corridor Council will contribute $1 million initially. The council also will expand the scope of its signature Matching Grants Research Program at UCF, the University of South Florida and the University of Florida to include Sensor-Driven Advanced Manufacturing. Up to $5 million of matching funds will be available for research activities and the operation of a consortium.
The new partnership comes at a time when Florida continues to lose manufacturing jobs. A Brookings Institute report issued this month noted that Florida has lost 75,000 manufacturing jobs since 2007, and the state’s domestic and international trade deficit is growing. The same report said that for every four boxcarloads of goods brought into the state, only one carload is leaving with goods manufactured in Florida.
“We must change those numbers, and our dynamic partnership between UCF and Osceola County will help to make it happen,” Hitt said.