A space institute designed to expand exploration of the cosmos, a project to improve construction through robotic automation and AI, an initiative to propel the university to global prominence in sports performance, and an effort to improve agriculture and environmental sustainability are among four new initiatives receiving strategic funding at the University of Florida, President Ben Sasse announced today. The funding, which has been awarded to winning proposals in four rounds since the beginning of October, aims to enhance the student experience and advance interdisciplinary scholarship.
“The University of Florida is a world-changing institution. Our faculty do incredible work, and we are making some strategic bets on projects that can transform everything from space exploration and agriculture to construction and sports,” Sasse said. “We want to elevate UF’s reputation as a national research leader and innovator. We’ve been entrusted with resources from the state, and we’re putting those resources to work. Gators are doing groundbreaking, interdisciplinary work here that will have a powerful impact on the industries of the future – in Florida and beyond.”
After UF received $130 million in new funding from the Florida Legislature this year, Sasse established that, for the first time, more than half of the funds would be directed to units for special strategic projects. A total of $24 million was delivered to deans to report back on their uses of the funds, and another $50 million was made available across all colleges and administrative units.
This semester, UF received more than 250 submissions, and 40 proposals were selected. This week, the following four proposals were selected in the fourth and final round for the year (to receive a total of $10,218,193):
- College of Design, Construction, and Planning, and Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering: Industrialized Construction Engineering (ICE), $2.5 million over two years – Funding will help harness the power of digital design, AI, and robotic automation to enhance productivity, safety, and quality in residential and commercial construction.
- Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS): Modernizing IFAS Extension Through AI, $2.7 million over four years – This project will embed business intelligence systems into IFAS to update the extension’s infrastructure, contributing to agricultural productivity and environmental sustainability.
- UF Research, Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering, College of Pharmacy, and College of Liberal Arts and Sciences:UF Space Mission Institute, $2.5 million over two years – The goal of this initiative is to create a hub in which experts across UF’s colleges can work together to answer the most demanding questions related to space exploration, development, and commercialization.
- College of Health and Human Performance, Warrington College of Business, College of Journalism and Communications, College of Medicine, and Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering (in partnership with the University Athletic Association): UF & Sport Collaborative, $2.5 million over one year – This multi-college initiative (with seed funding for a variety of sports-related proposals) will propel UF to the global stage in sports performance and healthcare, while illuminating its world-class sports facilities and partnerships.
With this new support for their initiatives, the awardees are thrilled to watch their projects materialize.
“The Space Mission Institute will cultivate an entirely new generation of researchers who study terrestrial analogs of important space problems,” said Forrest J. Masters, Ph.D., interim dean of the Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering. “It will create new pathways for these researchers to advance spaceflight, planetary and space exploration, and the search for answers to the most fundamental questions known to humankind.”
David Richardson, Ph.D., dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, looks forward to watching this groundbreaking space initiative come to life.
“This new venture into space science is an exhilarating addition to our college portfolio,” Richardson said. “We are excited to contribute our expertise in planetary science, astronomy instruments, and more, further enriching the institute’s capabilities.”
Michael Reid, Ph.D., dean of the College of Health and Human Performance, said the UF & Sport Collaborative will be another incredible resource for the university.
“Gator Nation has a rich sports history. I’m excited that UF faculty from five colleges will come together to tackle some of the biggest challenges in this field,” Reid said. “Our experts will address topics ranging from athlete development to sports analytics, from video journalism to wearable sensor technology. The results are sure to innovate sports, strengthen related industries, and help drive the Florida economy.”
Colleen Koch, M.D., dean of the College of Medicine, said the sports initiative will help UF students thrive post-graduation.
“Athletes push their bodies to the limit, and this project will allow us to capture real-time performance data and leverage AI to reduce injuries and improve performance,” Koch said. “This funding will significantly advance research infrastructure and testing for athletes of all backgrounds, while training graduates to enter the fields of sports science and medicine.”
Chimay Anumba, Ph.D., dean of the College of Design, Construction, and Planning, said the Industrial Construction Engineering initiative will undoubtedly improve the construction industry.
“This funding gives us an excellent opportunity to partner with the College of Engineering to make UF the premier institution for industrialized construction,” Anumba said. “There will be huge societal benefits as we can tackle productivity, safety, quality, and resilience issues in the construction project delivery process.”
Aladdin Alwisy, Ph.D., the director of UF’s Smart Industrialized Design and Construction Lab, said the Industrial Construction Engineering project will also “address the pressing affordable housing crisis and enhance the resilience of civil infrastructure.”
And the Modernizing IFAS Extension Through AI initiative will be pivotal in changing the way agriculture is approached statewide.
“The upgrades to our technology infrastructure through business intelligence and AI applications will not only allow us to expand our reach to meet the needs of more Floridians, but it will also allow for better engagement with other units across UF,” said Andra Johnson, Ph.D., dean of the UF/IFAS Extension. “We’re getting tailor-made solutions to complex problems into the hands of those who need it the most.”
About the University of Florida
The University of Florida attracts the best and brightest students, staff and faculty, places them together and connects them with world-class resources to spark extraordinary discoveries and innovations. UF’s momentum is reflected in the university’s designation as a No. 1 public university in the country by the Wall Street Journal. Artificial intelligence is a centerpiece at UF, spanning all disciplines so that every student has the opportunity to acquire competence and expertise in AI. The University of Florida is a place where limitless potential meets boundless opportunity through teaching, research, scholarship and service to the state, the nation and the world.