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Dean's Column

Calit2 Presents a Model for Multidisciplinary Research

Frieder Seible, Dean

Five years ago, California committed $400 million to an unprecedented experiment. The goal was to invest significant state funds—matched 2 to 1 by industry—to jump-start research critical to sustaining California's economic growth and competitiveness. Four innovation institutes were established on University of California campuses, including the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology (Calit2) at UC San Diego and UC Irvine. Now the nation, and even the world, is looking to Calit2 as a model for how to foster multidisciplinary research.

The state's initial investment of $100 million in Calit2 has catalyzed nearly $500 million in additional federal and private support. These funds have made it possible to create state-of-the-art shared laboratories, and to hire world-class technical staff to help researchers attain their goals. Calit2 has had the agility to seed intriguing new research projects and quickly bring faculty and students together for major federally funded efforts. Through Calit2's dynamic leadership, industry partners and academics from disparate disciplines are collaborating to advance technologies for disaster response and public safety, understanding of the environment and genomics, new media arts, and intelligent transportation. The emphasis is on basic research and systems integration into working prototypes, better known as "living laboratories."

Calit2 is now also spawning a new generation of interdisciplinary research centers on campus, another outgrowth of the state's major investment. For example, our new Information Theory and Applications Center, seeded by Calit2, draws experts from electrical engineering, computer science, mathematics and finance to apply information theory to life sciences and quantitative finance.

The exciting new frontiers that will drive innovation and economic competitiveness will always be found at the convergence of more established disciplines. With our investment in Calit2, California and UC have begun to invent a new paradigm for the kind of persistent collaborative research environment that will define research universities of the future.

Frieder Seible

Frieder Seible