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Campus Conversations Around UC Digital Futures Space Begins

They kept it quick—no easy task, given the complexity of their subjects.

One by one, teams of faculty from across the University of Cincinnati got nine minutes each to share their vision of the future with an audience of their peers at Digital Futures Pitch Day held by the Office of Research on Dec. 13.

In 2021, the university will open the new innovative space called Digital Futures in the Uptown Innovation Corridor. Inside its walls, UC will support research that sets out to solve a big problem or jump on a big opportunity now possible because of the digital age.

“A core mission will be to break silos and cross wires throughout the university,” said Vice President for Research Patrick Limbach, who has been put in charge of building the research teams at Digital Futures by UC President Neville Pinto. Digital Futures seeks to find synergy at the intersection of data science, biotech and the arts and humanities, Limbach said.

 “We know our campus, our community, our business partners and this region will be impacted by the data and biotech revolutions underway. This space allows UC to lead in shaping those impacts,” Limbach said.

Artificial intelligence, data analysis, cyber security—what sorts of work could happen at Digital Futures that would leave a lasting impact on society? What efforts could benefit from intentional partnerships with people and organizations outside of the university?

Pitch Day began this dialogue, offering a time and space for researchers to learn what their peers are up to and begin thinking of new ways to work together, Limbach said.  

The event was the first of many opportunities for faculty and researchers to become involved in Digital Futures. As more opportunities arise, they will be publicized on the Urban Futures website.

Digital Futures is part of the Innovation Corridor, envisioned by Pinto, as a “front door for industry and community to access UC talent.”

The space itself will be 180,000-square-feet—roughly the size of three football fields—constructed at the corner of Martin Luther King Drive and Reading Road, near the new Interstate 71 highway exit. It will be located across the street from UC’s other entry in the corridor, the 1819 Innovation Hub. This placement is intentional, allowing the research and innovation missions to move beyond the old paradigm, and reiterate the institution’s commitment to the future of this region.

It will support an ever-changing group of projects, supporting research teams for just the amount of time necessary to find a solution to a problem. Digital Futures is not envisioned to become the permanent home for any certain researchers or projects.

Those teams invited to the first pitch session were:

  • Digital Scholarship
  • Sensors
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Justice Informatics Center
  • Robotics and Intelligent Systems
  • Cancer Patient Navigator Training and Research
  • Center for Building Innovation
  • Data Analytics
  • Unmanned Aerial Vehicles
  • Design & Engineering for Accessibility
  • Secure Digital Research Commons
  • Mediated Environments
  • Smart Transportation Center

Next steps include identifying which challenges to face first at Digital Futures, deciding on industry partners and other opportunities for engagement, Limbach said.

Digital Futures is part of the Next Lives Here vision in UC’s strategic plan. 

“It will empower diverse teams of thinkers and doers to push the boundaries of what’s possible,” Pinto said, “to bend the future in Cincinnati’s direction.”