AUBURN – Construction will begin soon on a $28.8 million science center designed to foster multidisciplinary research collaborations across the Auburn University campus that will generate new knowledge and technology to benefit Alabama.
Groundbreaking ceremonies for the 84,000-square-foot Auburn University Center for Advanced Science, Innovation and Commerce, or CASIC, were held Friday, Nov. 18, at the Auburn Technology Park. The CASIC building is being funded by a $14.4 million grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology and matching dollars supplied by the state of Alabama along with support from Auburn University and the Alabama Agricultural Experiment Station.
The new center will feature 20 laboratories as well as shared support spaces and specialized equipment areas for scientific research in bioenergy, water quality, food safety, genomics, information science and ecosystem health. Researchers from Auburn’s colleges of Agriculture; Engineering; Sciences and Mathematics; and Architecture, Design and Construction; and its School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences will be housed in the facility.
John Mason, vice president for research at Auburn, said the new center will be a valuable addition to the university’s research portfolio and is crucial to Auburn’s strategic research initiatives that aim to provide solutions to critical problems and issues that face our nation, region and state.
“These issues include our focus on cyber systems and security, energy and environment, health sciences and food systems and transportation,” Mason said. “To address these critical areas, state-of-the-art research and development laboratories and facilities are essential for encouraging and supporting the high level of interdisciplinary, collaborative projects that will deliver results.
“This new facility will create the environment and provide the infrastructure required to develop, test and implement solutions for these strategic research initiatives,” he said. “We are grateful to the Department of Commerce and the National Institute of Standards and Technology for their financial support and commitment to Auburn University’s research efforts.”
Bill Batchelor, dean of the College of Agriculture and director of the Alabama Agricultural Experiment Station, noted that in late October, the world’s population reached seven billion people.
“This is putting a tremendous strain on food, energy and environmental systems around the world,” Batchelor said. “This facility will put Auburn at the forefront of research on food, renewable energy and environmental sustainability.
“We expect a lot of the research conducted in this facility will have practical applications to the world and lead to economic development opportunities for the state,” he said.
The center, which is expected to have an immediate economic impact in Alabama by creating jobs for its actual construction, has the potential when completed to bring in millions of dollars in grants and contracts annually, which can result in 10 times that amount in amplified economic impact per year.
Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard, who represents Auburn in the Alabama Legislature and helped secure the $14.1 million matching funds, said the CASIC facility is another example of how Auburn University is an economic engine for the state.
“If this recession has taught us one thing it is that we must continually innovate to improve our economy and create jobs,” Hubbard said. “CASIC is the latest embodiment of how Auburn University defines innovation for this state. It is truly an honor to represent Auburn University in the Legislature. Folks around the state probably get tired of hearing me brag about Auburn so much, but projects like this demonstrate how hard it is for me to resist.”
Officials said work done in the CASIC building will also be a boon to the state’s economy. Its renewable energy focus could lead the state to green jobs for a green economy. Food safety research will position Alabama as a hub for the nation’s food safety testing, technology development and training and greatly enhance the university’s profile in this area.
Water research at the facility will explore issues such as water availability, quality and use, all of which are vital to Alabama’s economic development. Genomics and informatics-based technologies – two recently emerged branches of science that focus on the discovery and utilization of the entire genetic potential of plants, animals and microorganisms – that are developed at the CASIC building could attract new businesses and enterprises to Alabama, creating employment opportunities to foster a science-based and technology-driven economy that attracts additional clean and green industry to Alabama.
(Written by Katie Jackson.)
For a high resolution image of those participating in the groundbreaking, go to http://www.flickr.com/photos/auburnuniversity/6359686443/