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UWF Offers $1.5 Million To Boost Research

The University of West Florida has announced a new Industry Research Matching Grants Program to encourage the growth of research at the university and at businesses in Northwest Florida. Dr. Brice Harris,  the director of Strategic Initiatives for the Office of Economic Development and Engagement at the University of West Florida says there is $1.5 million available in the program.

The money for the grant program came from non-recurring funds from the state that is targeted toward research that will unite the university with local businesses and entrepreneurs. Harris says the program is open to anyone in any industry, but there are certain areas the university is targeting such as aviation and aerospace, information technology, cyber security, manufacturing and financial services.

Dr. Harris  says the project is similar to the Florida High Tech Corridor Program in the central region of the state which has been operating for about 20 years with great success. He says while the demographics of our area may be different, the goals are very much the same. One goal is to help steer the university more into the area of research. UWF has historically been a teaching and work force development institution, but President Dr. Judy Bense and Provost Martha Saunders and others at the school are looking to step up the level of research being done on the campus. Other goals are to more closely tie the university into the business community of Northwest Florida and the possibly create products, businesses or intellectual property that would enhance the lives of people in the area.

There is another goal: profit. Dr. Harris says that UWF would hold a small ownership stake in any intellectual property produced by one of these grants, hopefully creating a cash flow that would be reinvested in the program and keep it running well into the future.

So, how does a project get started? Applicants need to contact the Office of Economic Development and Engagement at UWF. They will be put in touch with Dr. Harris and the ideas for the project will be discussed. Then a match-making of sorts will be done to connect the applicant with the faculty, staff and students at the university that have the right skills to get the project underway.

Once a project is approved, the university doesn't just cut a check and send the applicant off. UWF is involved in all aspects of the project. The funding will be largely, if not entirely spent on campus to support those faculty, staff and students as well as the infrastructure being used in the research and development of the project. There is also a three to one match requirement. For every dollar the university puts into the project, the applicant must put in three dollars in cash or in kind services.

Finally another goal of the project is creating high tech jobs for UWF students so they can stay close to home once they graduate. "Our talent is one of the key exports that we have here in Pensacola and the greater Northwest Florida area" and creating jobs to keep that talent from moving away after graduation would be a great benefit to the area.

Dr. Brice Harris is the director of Strategic Initiatives for the Office of Economic Development and Engagement at the University of West Florida. He says the program is up and running now and the Office of Economic Development and Engagement is taking applications for grants. There is no deadline, the program will continue until all the grant money has been used.

Bob Barrett has been a radio broadcaster since the mid 1970s and has worked at stations from northern New York to south Florida and, oddly, has been able to make a living that way. He began work in public radio in 2001. Over the years he has produced nationally syndicated programs such as The Environment Show and The Health Show for Northeast Public Radio's National Productions.