The joint engineering school for Florida A&M and Florida State universities is
considering establishing a presence in Jacksonville, with school officials meeting
with industry leaders this week to discuss the concept.
That includes conversations with the Jacksonville Transportation Authority, Jax
Chamber and representatives from local engineering and construction companies,
with meetings held between FAMU-FSU College of Engineering Dean Suvranu De
and local leaders Monday and Tuesday.
The innovation center being discussed would pursue millions of dollars in federal
grants and would look to be a regional collaboration rather than a branch of the
school, according to participants in the conversation.
According to an invitation for the event reviewed by the Business Journal, the idea
is to create a science, technology, engineering and math hub, with the area's
universities being involved. The Business Journal received the invitation in
response to a public records request to the city.
"The purpose of the STEM hub is to pull together public, private, and academia and
establish Jacksonville as a regional center of excellence for engineering, science,
technology, and mathematics," the invitation said. "The STEM Hub should create
innovation, intellectual property, and start-up companies. As part of the initiative we are asking every local university to participate and FSU + FAMU are looking to
establish a presence in Jax."
A representative from Florida State confirmed that the meetings took place but
declined to discuss them in detail.
The conversation comes as the two universities look to expand the reach of their
combined engineering school, which brings together the historically black
university and a Tier 1 research university.
Last month, FSU received a $98.4 million Triumph Gulf Coast grant for a project
called the Institution for Strategic Partnerships, Innovation, Research, and
Education, or InSPIRE in Panama City, where it has a campus. That program is
looking to build two buildings that will be a hub for aerospace and advanced
manufacturing research and development.
Having a STEM hub in Jacksonville would create an innovation corridor stretching
across the top of the state, said Chang Industrial principal Matthew Chang, who
helped organize this week's conversations. The hub would be positioned to go after
a U.S. National Science Foundation Regional Innovation Engine grant, he said,
which are designed to fund partnerships between academia and industry working
"This is a community initiative to lift up all of our groups," Chang said about the
plan. "That includes K-12, community college, the institutions of higher learning —
but it also includes startups, large companies and governmental bodies."
The hub would function as a public-private partnership, bringing in local
universities, companies and public agencies, said Greer Johnson Gillis, JTA's chief
infrastructure and development officer, who took part in the conversation.
"That's in harmony around what we're trying to do with innovation," she said. "It
synergies with our growth plan."
The conversation is in its early days, with logistics for any sort of facility still being
nailed down, participants said. Expectations are that local companies would be
asked to contribute funds, as would the city and state.
The conversation comes as conversations continue to take place about the
University of Florida establishing a graduate campus in Jacksonville.
That plan has received some $187.5 million in donations and government funding,
including $75 million from the state included in the 2023-2024 budget, and $50
million from the city, with $20 million of that coming in the current fiscal year.
Private donations for the UF project add up to $62.5 million, including $10 million
from CSX Corp. and $5 million pledged by the Jacksonville Jaguars.