Growing an innovation ecosystem at FIU

The College of Engineering and Computing and the Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine are two of the partners in a new “innovation ecosystem” at FIU that will “move research from fundamentals to industry,” says Naphtali Rishe, professor of computer science and director of the High Performance Database Research Center at FIU.

Rishe is the principal investigator of the NSF Center for Research Excellence in Science and Technology (CREST), the NSF Industry/University Cooperative Research Center (I/UCRC), and the Ecosystem to Pipeline Research – the new Accelerating Innovation Research (AIR) initiative, funded through the National Science Foundation Partnership for Innovation Program (NSF PFI), designed to develop academic innovation and then translate research into viable products for industry. “The NSF PFI: AIR research alliance projects are expected not only to result in new technologies, commercial realities, quality jobs, and start-up businesses, but they also will provide opportunities for students to be educated about innovation, entrepreneurship, and the technology translation process,” says the NSF AIR program director Karlene Hoo.Data overlays

Rishe and co-investigator, Kalai Mathee, professor and chair of the College of Medicine’s Department of Molecular Microbiology and Infectious Disease, are beginning to develop health informatics products using TerraFly, a multi-layered, web-based information tool.

The information is out there for the taking—demographics, disease patterns, housing stock, environmental hazards—all of the data that one might possibly need. But it’s not always accessible as a package at the moment that you need it. By mining data effectively and efficiently, FIU is making it possible to identify trends and come up with solutions that could have a real impact.

For example, health information statistics combined with geospatial data and streaming technologies could aid medical professionals in tracking an outbreak of tropical disease or marking the efficacy of a vaccine. “To resolve a problem like dengue fever, you need a combination of soft science and hard science,” Mathee points out.

Ultimately, the innovation ecosystem project is expected to spur the growth of new technologies that will result in products, quality jobs and possible spin-off businesses. “This project has the opportunity to not only be successful, but to be sustainable in the future,” says Hoo.


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