For the past five years UCF has invested in research clusters, which brought together interdisciplinary faculty to focus on big problems, such as the growing need for cyber security in a digital age.
The effort began with six clusters overseen by the Provost Office and has grown to nine clusters, which are overseen by the Office of Research. Today the clusters are launching new websites that focus on sharing their early successes, their ongoing work and future aspirations. Some clusters have changed names, tweaked their mission and, in one case, have given birth to a national center.
The UCF Faculty Cluster Initiative, or FCI, is comprised of the following clusters – Biionix; Cyber Security and Privacy; Disability, Aging and Technology; Genomics and Bioinformatics; Learning Sciences; Renewable Energy and Chemical Transformation (REACT); Resilient, Intelligent and Sustainable Energy Systems (RISES); Sustainable Coastal Systems; and Violence Against Women.
The cluster researchers are discovering new ways to power our lives, keep power systems resilient and sustainable, keep our private data safe and secure, better understand the genetics behind diseases and biodiversity, improve the ways we use technology to learn, sustain our coastlines, help our bodies accept medical devices, aid the physical and cognitive functions of disabled people and the elderly and protect all members of society from violence.
The initial six clusters began with 33 faculty and are now almost fully staffed with more than 135 joint and secondary joint faculty, each key to their cluster’s success.
For example, the faculty in the Cyber Security and Privacy cluster have outperformed their counterparts at UCF. In 2019, cluster members generated almost $1.5 million in grant funding, while their counterparts generated just slightly more than $1 million. So far in 2020, the Cyber cluster members have generated $2.25 million while their counterparts are just shy of $1 million.
The growth of the Biionix Cluster team from five to 17 members over the past year has had a positive effect on publishing, with the cluster producing significant discoveries over this time.
The UCF National Center for Integrated Coastal Research was formed in January 2018 and focuses on increasing the resiliency and sustainability of coastal communities. The center grew out from the Sustainable Coastal System Cluster, which now serves as the center’s research arm.
“FCI has proven the initial hypothesis – that multidisciplinary teams with common vision, co-located and with the necessary startup resources can flourish over time,” says Debra Reinhart, a Pegasus Professor, Associate Vice President for Research and Scholarship, and Director of FCI.