Center will boost security, telecom

Norfolk State University will break ground this year on a technology research complex that will be a robust telecommunications hub in southeastern Virginia, help with a city of Norfolk homeland security plan and serve as an economic stimulus for the region.

The first phase of the $86 million public/private initiative, being overseen by NSU's Enterprise and Empowerment Foundation (E2F), involves constructing a 160,000-square-foot building that will house applied research, venture support and workforce development programs. A second 240,000-square-foot building will house a telecommunications infrastructure, co-generation facility and businesses that require high-speed bandwidth or are involved in collaborative research with the university. "We expect the business community, particularly those businesses that need access to high bandwidth, will be attracted to the [Research and Innovation to Support Empowerment (RISE) Center], and we will have space available for them to co-locate," said Robert Askew Sr., E2F's executive director. Research will focus on technology — biometrics, optical engineering, nanotechnology, information assurance and smart materials, to name a few — that will be of particular interest to the telecommunications sector, he added, permitting NSU students and faculty to work collaboratively with the region's eight other universities, with four federal labs and internationally. Once the telecommunications infrastructure is developed and high-speed bandwidth is available, Askew said that the RISE Center, which would sit in the middle of an economic empowerment zone, might attract companies to the region. Regarding what he called Norfolk's "bold" and "innovative" homeland security model, Askew said the RISE Center can serve as a focal point to run many applications, such as geographic information systems, for the region. This will lower costs for all participants.

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