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UC researchers continue to blaze new trails in science, medicine, business, education, engineering and the arts — literally transforming the way we live, work and learn.

Digital Futures Anchor Program Launches

Findings Staff| May 9, 2019

Digital transformation. It’s happening in every corner of our lives, as individuals and as parts of our local and global communities. Public research institutions should want to learn to ride the waves of this sea change, positioning themselves to solve the challenges of today and tomorrow.

Fear not, the University of Cincinnati is on it.

In less than 30 months, the UC will begin leasing a new facility—unlike any other on campus—called Digital Futures. Construction is starting on the 180,000-square-foot space at the corner of Martin Luther King Drive and Reading Road, ushering in the next phase of the Cincinnati Innovation District. Here, bold ideas will be tested by teams of UC researchers working across disciplines in five core competencies: 

  • Software (cyber, AI)
  • Hardware (sensors, devices)
  • Data (analytics, informatics) 
  • Human factors (education, simulation and policy) and 
  • Digital expression (creative arts and humanities).

The goal: Capture new knowledge, create original technologies and find fresh approaches to the digital challenges in our world.  

“The digital age has changed how we live, work, learn and play,” says Vice President for Research Patrick Limbach, placed in charge of developing Digital Futures by President Neville Pinto and Provost Kristi Nelson. “UC’s Digital Futures will not be business as usual and is being created around the concept of partnering to conduct use-based/problem-focused research," says Assistant Vice President for Integrated Research Jennifer Krivickas, the Urban Futures Pathway leader and Office of Research point person for Digital Futures.

A number of core facilities and technologies are envisioned in Digital Futures including VR/AR capabilities; high-bay space for advanced robotics, sensing and drones; high-performance computing and a dedicated electronics shop in a space that supports studio- and design-forward collaboration. 

“The world is beginning to take note of the University of Cincinnati and our presence as an anchor in the city’s Innovation District,” Pinto said in his State of the University address in April. “And the Digital Futures building … will further enhance our innovation ecosystem.”

Pinto and Nelson introduced the concept of Digital Futures to the deans of UC’s colleges in the summer of 2018. This past fall, the deans nominated 20 faculty teams whose research expertise aligned with the core competencies. Thirteen of those were invited to Digital Futures Pitch Day held in December.

The teams that participated in Pitch Day were invited to propose a Digital Futures “Challenge” that could be addressed in this new space. Nineteen ideas came in and the Digital Futures Leadership Team is excited to announce six ideas that will move forward in an Executive-level Anchor Tenant Development Program. 

Anchor teams will be provided a dedicated space in Digital Futures for three years with opportunities to renew their appointments once defined milestones and metrics are met. Anchor teams will have access to add-on graduate student funding, undergraduate research stipends and the opportunity to qualify for post-doctoral and or visiting scholar support.

"There is a clear expectation that Anchor teams will demonstrate the ability to sustain non-institutional support in their collaborations," Limbach says, "and be engaged and active with external partners." 

Without further ado, the initial cohort of teams selected for the Anchor Tenant Development Program:

  • Bio-Inspired Computational Intelligence (BIComIn) for Personalization: Genetic fuzzy-based AI for effective real-time decision making in military/commercial applications and for personalizing treatment in health-related disorders/injuries. Led by Kelly Cohen, professor and interim head of the Department of Aerospace Engineering and Engineering Mechanics.
  • Development of a Virtual Reality Augmented Violence Reduction Training System for Active and Mass Shooting incidents. Led by Edward Latessa, professor and director of the School of Criminal Justice.
  • Intelligent Robotics and Autonomous Systems. Led by Ou Ma, professor in the College of Engineering and Applied Science.
  • Security as a Given: The Innovation Model to National Distinction. Led by Richard Harknett, professor and director of the Department of Political Science.
  • Smart and Connected Drones for Military and Civilian Applications: A paradigm shift in robustness & scalability of emergency operations utilizing integrated air traffic management. Led Kelly Cohen of CEAS and Manish Kumar, professor in the School of Dynamic Systems.
  • Transdisciplinary AI: Applied Machine Learning for UC's Digital Future. Led by James Lee, professor and co-director of the Digital Humanities/Digital Scholarship Center.
Digital Futures is part of UC's Urban Futures initiative; follow this link to learn more. The next opportunity for faculty teams to apply for consideration as Anchor Tenants is now open with a submission deadline of June 14th. More information about this opportunity can be found at this link.

Learn more about the Digital Futures platforms

  • Resilience & Recovery: this will include but is not limited to research targeted at new solutions to the challenges of natural disasters, climate change, economic disruption and social injustice
  • Safety & Security: this will include but is not limited to research targeted at information warfare/disruption, geopolitical instability, smart prisons and food insecurity
  • Mobility & Exploration: this will include but is not limited to research targeted at new solutions to the challenges of aging in place, colonizing space, physical disabilities and social mobility.
  • Future Health: this will include but is not limited to research targeted at new solutions to the challenges of patient health and well-being, electronic medical records, personalized medicine, accessibility in rural areas and patient autonomy.

The OoR anticipates adding at least one or two more platforms within the next 12 to 18 months.