If all the dollars and cents, bricks and mortar eventually fall into place, the University of Central Florida will make a national showcase out of its proposed smart-sensor research and manufacturing center in Osceola County.
One thing has become clear, however, since UCF and Osceola announced the deal earlier this month: It takes more than a village to raise a new $200 million research center.
That's true not just about the money, much of which UCF and its partners are still looking to secure. It's true about the research component of the venture as well, industry leaders say.
Although UCF is well-known nationally for its work in lasers, optics and other sensor-related areas, one of the strongest points of its plan for the new center is that it embraces other universities, said Scott Faris, chairman of the Metro Orlando Economic Development Commission.
That means the new center also will draw from sensor-research expertise at the University of Florida and University of South Florida, according to Faris, a high-tech entrepreneur and founder of a number of tech companies in the Orlando area, including Micro-Vapor Devices LLC and Nanozyme Inc.
"If you look at the total picture, the goal here is to create an opportunity for world-class research collaboration," he said. "In addition to UCF, both UF and USF have great work going on. And when you want to put together a globally competitive research facility, you have to take advantage of all the assets you have, whether it is in Orlando, Gainesville or Tampa."
UF and USF have already thrown their financial support behind the UCF-Osceola project. Each institution has contributed $250,000 for startup costs. They are also members of the Florida High-Tech Corridor Council, the Lake Mary-based technology and economic-development agency that has committed at least $1 million to the research center.
All three colleges see the need for establishing the new center as a focal point for developing and commercializing sensor technologies, said Alex Fong, a laser industry executive and president of the Florida Photonics Cluster, a professional industry group based in Orlando.
The new research center will be especially critical to UCF's bid for a new Department of Defense advanced photonics manufacturing contract potentially worth $150 million, he said.
"It would allow us to show the Defense Department that not only do we have the expertise in this area of photonics, we also have the kind of facility they are looking for," he said.
Lockheed Martin Corp.'s Orlando operations will receive a share of a new $9 million Navy contract related to the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike fighter, the military said last week. The Navy awarded the deal to Fort Worth, Texas-based Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co., prime contractor on the F-35. Lockheed will produce 14 releaseable holdback bars, part of the equipment that enables the F-35s to take off from aircraft carrier decks. Lockheed will do part of the work in Orlando.
©2014 The Orlando Sentinel (Orlando, Fla.)