Florida Gulf Coast University’s Emergent Technologies Institute (ETI) took another step towards realization Feb. 24 during a ground breaking at the construction site off Alico Road northeast of the main campus. Scheduled for completion by the end of the year, the ETI is a 6.5-acre research-and-development complex that will support new educational initiatives, enhance regional workforce and economic development, and foster collaboration involving higher education, government and industry. The institute initially will focus on technologies in environmental sustainability and renewable energy – fields that are projected to continue growing locally and nationally.
The ETI also is the first project to begin construction in the Innovation Hub (IHub), a 240-acre development planned as a magnet for technology and research companies.
“The ETI is the cornerstone of an economic development effort that will bring jobs and economic diversification to Southwest Florida,” said FGCU President Wilson G. Bradshaw. “The ETI will be an education and research center focused on sustainable energy issues, which is in line with FGCU’s mission and is good for the State of Florida.”
The Backe Foundation Inc. and Galvano Development, which are developing the IHub, donated the ETI land to the university. John D. Backe also donated $1 million to FGCU to establish the Backe Chair for Renewable Energy.
Designed by Leo A. Daly, an international engineering and architecture firm with offices in in West Palm Beach, the 25,000-square-foot ETI will house research labs, classrooms, offices and public rooms. A 2.5-acre Energy Park will provide outdoor space for conducting experiments as well as demonstrating new technology for visitors. Research already is underway at FGCU in renewable energy storage, forecasting solar power generation based on climate and solar desalination of water.
“In the future, the world is going to depend more and more on renewable energy and we need to develop a plan,” said Joseph Simmons, a physicist and eminent scholar who is the Backe Chair in Renewable Energy at FGCU. “We have the opportunity to use this as a beachhead to reach the community of Southwest Florida, the state of Florida and beyond.”
The ETI is projected to cost $12 million to $12.5 million, including design, construction and furnishings.