September 5, 2014

Future Belknap research park explained

Despite not having a solidified timeframe or a selected architect, plans of a future Belknap research park were presented to the U of L Foundation during their meeting today.

Neville Pinto, dean of the J. B. Speed School of Engineering, discussed the potential impact of the Belknap Engineering and Applied Sciences Research Park.

Designed to be a “vibrant ecosystem for product realization,” the park will house research facilities, co-creation areas and spots for corporations that want to build relationships with U of L. Companies will be able to lease space in the park. FirstBuild is also planned to move there from its current location on the corner of Brandeis Avenue and Floyd Street.

“We are going to innovate so rapidly, and change our product so rapidly, that that gives us an edge over our competitor,” said Pinto.

According to Pinto, only one similar park exists.

Pinto believes the park will be at the forefront of the future of engineering, which may rely more on freelance engineers and a global system of co-creation.

“I think things are going to change drastically,” said Pinto. “That is the influence of the digital world on our world now. The practice of engineering is going to change, I am pretty convinced of it, and I need to get my students ready for that world.”

The new cycle will start with problems and engineers working to create the best solution. Microbuild factories, like the FirstBuild factory on the Belknap campus, will then be able to produce prototypes. Consumer input is then gathered, and the product can be revised. The final product is then manufactured for the market.

“It is a rapid cycle,” said Pinto. “It connects the consumer, it connects the developer, it connects our whole creative community with the people who build and the consumers all in one cycle. And that is what we expect will change the way things are made.”

Thus far, General Electrics is the only company that has committed money to the project. According to Pinto, two people have been hired for corporate recruiting.

According to U of L President James Ramsey, U of L is in negotiations for a business plan for the first building in the park. They are also looking for alternative funding methods.

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