Six schools sign Internet Coast pact to spur regional role as e-hub
By Mindy Hagen
Six South Florida universities have signed an agreement to form a research consortium as part of InternetCoast's effort to promote the tri-country region as an information technology hub.
The University of Miami, Florida International University, Florida Atlantic University, Miami-Dade Community College, Barry University and Nova Southeastern University will share research plans, work together on projects and serve as the development backbone for the more than 2,000 high-tech companies under the umbrella of the InternetCoast.
Leslie Croland, a member of InternetCoast's board and economic advisory council, said the consortium is an important step.
"The research consortium between the universities will serve as the cornerstone of development here," said Mr. Croland, a partner with the law firm Edwards & Angell. "This is a key component for the development of this region as a world-class technology center."
Mr. Croland said regions such as Northern California, Boston, Texas and North Carolina that have prospered as information technology centers would not have achieved success without working with their nearby universities to foster research and development of technology.
"This initiative will develop a core research community from which technology is transferred out to private business," Mr. Croland said. "Each university in the consortium has special research talents. By combining together, the whole will be greater than the sum of the parts."
Under study since last year, the consortium needs more structure before it can work efficiently, Mr. Croland said, but he envisions the universities combining on some projects before the end of the year.
John Beaubrun, associate vice president for technology at Barry University, said getting all the universities to collaborate for research represents a significant step.
"We are creating a new separate entity," Mr. Beaubrun said. "In the past the universities have worked together one or two at a time. But to get all of us together represents a brand new area for South Florida."
Mr. Beaubrun said the possibilities for shared research information give universities in the consortium a major advantage.
"The opportunity to be a part of such a consortium is something Barry University fully embraces," he said. "This is a meaningful way to contribute to making South Florida an advanced technology research center and impact the community."
The six universities will electronically communicate research information on projects, he said, allowing each institution to respond quickly to each other's needs. Mr. Croland said a physical headquarters for the consortium might be planned for the future, but that each university already has good infrastructure.
Mr. Beaubrun said the universities are creating a virtual Internet organization in forming the consortium and pledging to share resources.
"We aren't going to get caught up in old paradigms of structure," he said. "These commitments by each university are more than financial or physical. The commitment is to serve the community as a whole by having each school contribute its resources to projects."