UCF charges on with Osceola smart sensors

Address to the St. Cloud Chamber of Commerce
Kissimmee Bay Country Club

August 20, 2015

A big Knights welcome to all of you. It’s great to be among so many friends here in Osceola County!

Thanks to the St. Cloud Greater Osceola Chamber of Commerce for the lunch and the hospitality, and thanks to Osceola County Commission Chairman Brandon Arrington, Commissioner Fred Hawkins, and County Manager Don Fisher for their gracious invitation to join you today. But I must talk to my scheduler. As an avid fisherman, being near so many world-class bass lakes – with no time to fish – is like watching the big one get away!

A global revolution in high-tech manufacturing is coming, and we intend for our region to benefit. Shortly, I will update you on the big one that is not getting away from us. I refer to our bold efforts with Osceola County government to create thousands of well-paying jobs and to reinvent the innovation economy of our region and the Sunshine State.

But first, let me say how much UCF appreciates our ties with Osceola County, which your hometown university has served since it opened in 1968.

We count many Osceola residents among our talented staff and faculty members, students, and notable alumni.

UCF prides itself on being America’s leading partnership university, a trademarked distinction that you have helped us to earn in a number of ways.

In 2006, for instance, you joined us in pursuing an extraordinary opportunity: the creation of the UCF College of Medicine that has come to anchor a world-class Medical City at Lake Nona. Former Governor Jeb Bush and others have called the Medical City the biggest economic catalyst for Central Florida since Walt Disney World.

And by the way: Where we are meeting today is about 12 miles closer to the Medical City than is the Orlando city hall!

Other valuable partnerships involving UCF and Osceola County include:

  • a new on-site clinic for Osceola County Sheriff’s Office employees staffed by our teaching physicians at the College of Medicine,
  • a program planned with Heavenly Hoofs and the county’s new equestrian center for our College of Medicine researchers to study how veterans and autistic children are affected by equestrian therapy;
  • a business incubator in Kissimmee that continues to spawn new companies, jobs, and tax revenues in Osceola County;
  • and joint facilities and programs at the Osceola campus of Valencia College that are providing more educational access than ever to deserving students of all socio-economic backgrounds.

Today, I am especially pleased to discuss an effort in Osceola County that is significant to the economy of our entire state. The Florida Advanced Manufacturing Research Center under development near Kissimmee is a partnership of

  • Osceola County government,
  • UCF,
  • the Florida High Tech Corridor,
  • the Orlando Economic Development Commission,
  • Enterprise Florida,
  • and the universities of Florida, Florida International, and South Florida.

A global revolution in high-tech manufacturing is coming, and we intend for our region to benefit.

In Osceola, our focus is on next-generation products that leverage smart-phones, high-performance computers, and the internet.

Together, our partnership is assembling the world’s first industry-led consortium in advanced manufacturing of smart sensors and other emerging technologies.

Increasingly, for many of us, sensors are a part of life.

They tell our smart phones which end is up, help us monitor our heartrates, and alert us when we are about to back into a curb.

It may seem that sensors are everywhere. But some challenges are holding them back from being a greater catalyst for economic growth.

  • For starters, most sensors are not very smart! They rely on someone to read them and to act on those readings.
  • Also, there is much room to improve the speed, interactivity, and capabilities of sensors and the devices that use them.
  • Last, smart sensors currently cost too much to make.

Conquering these challenges is where the Osceola center aspires to be a game changer.

Two key parts highlight our efforts. The first is building a state-of-the-art, 100,000-square-foot facility in Osceola to cultivate research and offer solutions to manufacturing problems. The second is an industry-led, non-profit group to direct the center’s applications to the marketplace.

Work is underway on the 20-acre site for the building, which will be finished by early 2017.

The non-profit group has been created and is called the International Consortium for Advanced Manufacturing Research, also known as ICAMR.

It has a strong leadership team modeled after the non-profit industry consortium of Sematech, which spurred Austin, Texas, to national prominence in the production of high-tech semiconductors.

In Osceola, our focus is on next-generation products that leverage smart-phones, high-performance computers, and the internet.

As applications for sensors and other emerging technologies grow, we expect to create a robust supply chain here in Central Florida. This cluster will

  • generate high-tech jobs,
  • diversify the state’s economy,
  • and bolster globally competitive manufacturing in the United States.

Currently, the international market for smart sensors is in the billions. But that market is expected to reach the trillions of dollars. Yes, I did say trillions!

As smart sensors take off, someone will capitalize by being on the ground-floor. Why not here in Osceola County and Central Florida rather than Silicon Valley, Austin, or New York?

In analyzing the Osceola project in May, Florida TaxWatch praised our efforts and said:  
“Creating this sector in Florida could be a transformative moment in Florida’s economy, pushing the state to be a critical hub for the next generation of technological advancement in our increasingly interconnected world.”

One of the reasons we like the odds for success in Osceola County is because advanced manufacturing plays to our strengths at UCF and at our partner universities. Our UCF faculty members, for instance, have achieved great success in optics, photonics, and nanotechnology, which are all important in this revolutionary era of advanced manufacturing.

Also, UCF has a strong history of working with industry to commercialize innovations and to create high-tech businesses.

Finally, all the partner universities produce top-notch talent in the fields that advanced-manufacturing companies require to grow and to compete.

Advanced manufacturing offers well-paying jobs over a wide spectrum of talent and degree levels. Those jobs become a potent ingredient for economic prosperity.

.... UCF has a strong history of working with industry to commercialize innovations and to create high-tech businesses.

Friends, let me assure you that UCF and its partners are all-in for the long-haul in seeing advanced manufacturing succeed in Osceola County.

That commitment is reflected in several ways, not the least of which is the 30-year lease we signed with Osceola County to manage and operate the Florida Advanced Manufacturing Research Center.

Last year, UCF hired new professors with expertise in research and the sciences that ICAMR and its industry clientele will need, and more strategic hires are ahead for the center in the coming year.

The ICAMR leadership team, based in Osceola County and led by Dan Holladay, a former Sematech executive, is diligently recruiting industry partners in the U.S. and abroad while spreading word of our plans for Osceola.

Recently, ICAMR hosted more than 50 national and international high-tech industry leaders and experts. They learned more about our plans, and they provided guidance on how to establish high-volume manufacturing to produce smart sensors.

UCF has earmarked $17 million for the Osceola project, and we expect to make additional strategic investments.

Recently, we hit two bumps in the road.

A UCF-led coalition of 114 businesses and universities was among three national finalists for a $110 million photonics contract that New York ultimately won.

Let us remember that it was only because of Osceola’s commitment and our groundwork on smart sensors that the state of Florida and the Southeast United States could compete as a finalist for such a major contract! In the process, we made some excellent industry and military contacts to help us now and in the future.

Also, we greatly appreciated the funding from the Legislature made possible by Senators Soto and Stargel and Representatives Cortes and La Rosa, along with Senate President Andy Gardiner and House Speaker Steve Crisafulli.

Unfortunately, the $10 million to help equip our center was not sustained in the executive office review of the budget.

As any CEO or rodeo champion will tell you, hard knocks and bad spills happen. Also, no college football team, after a few losses, packs up the pads and closes the stadium!

Success favors those who dust off, adjust, and keep on working hard.
Our current pursuits include a partnership with Arizona State University to compete for a federal contract to make electronics that bend and are more resilient.

We are talking with MIT about competing for federal money to advance the development of revolutionary fibers that can be weaved into clothing to generate power for devices and other uses.

These contracts are worth millions. We are exploring other high-tech opportunities, along with additional possibilities with industry. Also, we will keep seeking state help.

In the UCF style, we are charging on! Not only can the efforts in Osceola County reinvent the future prosperity of our region, they can enhance the future of advanced manufacturing in this country.

Doing extraordinary things often requires bold thinking and the conviction to act.

Osceola leaders have been aggressive, committing substantial resources for this project.

I know I speak for many leaders throughout Central Florida when I commend Osceola County commissioners and their staffs for their vision and their conviction to enhance the quality of life for our entire region.

To fully realize our plans, we will need additional funding over the next several years. It’s a heavy lift. But we’ve faced steep climbs before.

Less than a decade ago, we were longshots for obtaining funding and state approvals to establish a College of Medicine and the Medical City at Lake Nona.

Some people called us “crazy,” and used other terms that I won’t repeat here!

But, working together, we prevailed to create an asset that will energize our region for generations to come. And, through partnership, we’ll do it again in Osceola County with advanced manufacturing.

Partnerships help us accomplish goals that no one single individual or institution acting alone has the means to achieve. And they can help us turn the impossible into the inevitable.

Thank you for inviting me today. Thank you for being such enthusiastic partners with UCF.

Let’s keep reaching for the stars, Go Knights, and charge on!