Governor Riley Announces New Research Center at UAH Moving Forward
HUNTSVILLE – Governor Bob Riley visited the University of Alabama in Huntsville campus Thursday to announce that plans for a new research and engineering center will move forward with an $8 million investment from the state.
The new Center for System Studies will involve groundbreaking research into complex engineering systems, which include smart power grids, space launch vehicles, robotics, aviation systems and missile defense, to name a few. The center’s focus will involve understanding how complex systems interact and developing engineered solutions to system problems.
“This center will offer this region and our entire state new opportunities for economic growth and development,” said Governor Riley. “UAHuntsville plays an important role in our economy and this new center will expand the university’s research and development capability. Innovation and research are engines of sustained economic growth. Through strategic investments in research facilities, we are leveraging state dollars to secure high-wage, non-exportable jobs and making Alabama a national leader in groundbreaking research.”
The Center for System Studies will be led by Dr. Michael Griffin, a professor of aerospace engineering and an eminent scholar at UAHuntsville who served as NASA Administrator under President George W. Bush. Dr. Griffin joined the university faculty in 2009, bringing with him a wealth of leadership and engineering experiences in business, government and academia, as well as relationships that span the globe.
As center director, Dr. Griffin will leverage his experience and relationships to set the tone and direction for the center’s academic and research endeavors, and will provide students and faculty with opportunities to work on some of the most complex system challenges of our day.
“North Alabama is the most highly concentrated aerospace, defense and energy work center in the world, and it is growing. The Center for System Studies at UAHuntsville is poised to tackle the complex challenges which present themselves as organizations develop smart power grids, space launch vehicles, robotics, and missile defense, to name a few such important, sophisticated systems,”
Dr. Griffin and UAHuntsville President David B. Williams joined Governor Riley in making the announcement on Thursday. Dr. Williams said UAHuntsville is the logical home for the new research center.
“We are not only close to the organizations with these needs, but we also have immense research capabilities and top students to apply to the problems,” he said. “Our community and our state’s vitality depend on the workforce’s ability to design and manage complex systems. UAHuntsville will offer both solutions and ‘systems smart’ graduates.”
Plans call for the Center for System Studies to be a three-phrase project that will include research labs, training space, classrooms, and a rooftop experiment area. Phase One of the project will be about 60,000 square feet. When fully completed, the center will occupy approximately 160,000 square feet.
The $8 million investment from the state comes from the sale of bonds that were approved by a state commission last week.
Governor Riley and UAHuntsville leaders have discussed the Center for System Studies with Senator Richard Shelby, who supports the project and is working to secure federal funding for the effort.
Governor Riley has made growing the economy through investments in research and development a priority throughout his two terms. He secured millions of dollars in funding for the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology, a new cancer research institute at the University of South Alabama, a new research park at Auburn University, and biomedical research at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
“During the past seven years, we’ve worked to create a knowledge-based economy through our existing research infrastructure at our institutions of higher learning,” said Governor Riley. “The new Center for System Studies at UAHuntsville is the next step in this effort. All this helps make Alabama a national leader in research, a more attractive place for cutting edge industries, and a prime location for the new jobs of the 21st century.”
Governor Riley visited the UAHuntsville campus in February and met with Dr. Williams and Dr. Griffin to discuss the center’s potential and possible state investment in the project. For that visit, the Governor brought top budget officials, including Acting Finance Director Bill Newton and General Fund budget committee chairmen Senator Roger Bedford and Representative John Knight.
Both Dr. Williams and Dr. Griffin praised Governor Riley for his commitment to the project.
“Governor Riley has repeatedly demonstrated tremendous vision and has shown great skill at converting concepts into reality. He has been a strong supporter of this project from day one and he understands the important role that technological development and research universities play in the future of this state. We share Governor Riley’s vision and thank him for his support of this project,” Dr. Williams and Dr. Griffin said in a statement.