The University of Cincinnati (UC) continues its research and innovation initiatives with the Digital Futures Building, which officially opened on Friday, Sept. 23.
The new 180,000-square-foot building, located off Martin Luther King Avenue, is UC's newest addition to what Patrick Limbach, vice president of research at UC, calls the "new Avondale Innovation Campus."
True to its name, the Digital Futures building will house over 15 advanced-tech labs, approximately 20 classrooms, and meeting, event space, and immersive storytelling spaces.
The project cost the university $10 million and is funded fully through a planned debt, according to a recent Capital Projects in Design and Construction report to the UC Board of Trustees.
Digital Futures is intended to be a space to foster research collaboration, where professors and students from multiple colleges can come together to work on a unified project.
"What's special about this building is it provides our faculty a place to come together regardless of their discipline," said Limbach. "So, it doesn't matter what department they're in, it doesn't matter what college they're in, they are coming together because they want to work on the same problem as a group."
One such issue that researchers are collaborating on is a project by Design, Architecture, Art and Planning (DAAP), the College of Education, Criminal Justice and Human Services (CECH), and the College of Medicine. The researchers are working to develop how people can read more effectively through a type of font, according to Limbach. Other labs in the building focus on everything from crypto economics to public safety.
"I think because we're giving [researchers] a dedicated space to do something that is above and beyond what they normally do at the college level, and sort of providing them a facility and resources around that facility to reduce the barriers to collaboration and success," said Limbach. "That is the goal of that space."
Like the Digital Futures building, the 1819 Innovation Hub opened nearly four years ago on Oct. 5, 2018, as a part of the Next Lives Here campaign, a 10-year strategic plan.
While both buildings host research, Limbach said that the primary difference between them is partnerships – 1819 has students working with corporate partners, and Digital Futures works with students and faculty from around UC's campus.
" is really a building with a lot of corporate offices that are geared towards talent at the undergraduate level, and workforce," said Limbach. "Digital Futures, which is across the street, is a building that is really focused on research. So, it is the faculty in that building. They're working, in some cases with industry partners, but it's really about solving problems that matter to the city, the region, the state and the United States. What we have in Digital Futures is a lot more oriented to the graduate level students."
As the university continues to work through its research initiatives, including Next Lives Here and Research 2030, Limbach hopes that Digital Futures, the 1819 Innovation Hub and "subsequent buildings" will attract nonlocal researchers to the Avondale Innovation Campus.
"When we are successful with Digital Futures, what you will see is more than one Digital Futures building, with researchers coming from around the world to come here to work together," said Limbach. "Companies that will be wanting to co-locate or be next door to our researchers because of what they're doing and what their students are doing."