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U. of I., Singapore establishing information technology center


Robin Kaler, associate chancellor for public affairs

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. – The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the Agency for Science, Technology and Research, or A*STAR, a Singapore government agency that oversees 22 research institutes, consortia and centers, are establishing a major research center in Singapore. The Advanced Digital Sciences Center will be focused on breakthrough innovations in information technology that are expected to have a major impact in transforming human beings’ utilization of information technology.

ADSC’s signature project will be the Human Sixth Sense Project – research to develop information technology infrastructure and human-machine interfaces enabling people to interact naturally with the digital world, giving them information they want, when, where and how they need it.

“This partnership amplifies an Illinois tradition of international activities and builds on our considerable legacy in information technology,” said Richard Herman, the U. of I. chancellor. “It is a marriage of great strengths here and in Singapore, and we believe it will serve as a focus of creativity and innovation in service to society.”

A*STAR, which has research collaborations and partnerships with universities and industries worldwide, will provide $50 million of renewable funding for ADSC over the next five years.

“Through this collaboration, Singapore is strengthening our scientific links with one of the best universities in the world,” said Lim Chuan Poh, the chairman of A*STAR. “ADSC will bring with it world-class research capabilities and research training capacity in digital sciences to complement the capabilities and capacity that already exist in Singapore. ADSC is therefore expected to add to A*STAR’s attraction as a hub for doing cutting-edge research.

“It will broaden the opportunities for Singaporeans to pursue research as well as attract more international scientific talents to Singapore. The establishment of ADSC in Fusionopolis will also play a complementary role into A*STAR’s plan to pursue multidisciplinary research programs through integrating its spectrum of research capabilities.”

Fusionopolis is a research and development complex in Buona Vista that is intended to catalyze innovation, experimentation and collaboration in the infocomm and media industries.

The culmination of a 15-year relationship between Illinois and A*STAR, ADSC will provide a rich environment that nurtures specialized research teams, fosters interaction with local and multinational companies, and supports the training of graduate students and postdoctoral researchers in Singapore and at Illinois. Illinois already has a well-established joint master of science-Ph.D. program in chemical engineering in Singapore, and a Ph.D. program that comprises two years of study at Illinois and two years at an A*STAR research institute and is funded by A*STAR scholarships.

The Human Sixth Sense Project will be led by the U. of I. College of Engineering and draw faculty from the department of electrical and computer engineering, the department of computer science, as well as the Coordinated Science Laboratory, and the Information Trust Institute, the latter two units among Illinois’ most successful multidisciplinary research groups focused on information technology.

“I’m really excited that ADSC and the Human Sixth Sense Project offer Illinois and Singapore the opportunity to work together on a problem of global significance,” said Ravi Iyer, the vice chancellor for research at Illinois. “Imagine being able to provide timely, relevant and accurate multi-media information anywhere and everywhere. That’s the goal of this collaboration.”

Benjamin W. Wah, a Franklin W. Woeltge Endowed Professor in the U. of I. department of electrical and computer engineering and a professor of computer science, has been selected as ADSC’s inaugural director.

By ADSC’s fourth year it will include four permanent faculty members, 14 visiting faculty members, 25 postdoctoral scholars, 40 A*STAR-funded Ph.D. students and up to five visiting graduate students, plus administrative and technical support personnel, in addition to Wah.

Technology innovations at ADSC are expected to attract industry partners and lead to a self-supporting group of economic spin-offs. UI Singapore Research, a limited liability company authorized earlier this year, will administer the ADSC.

About A*STAR: A*STAR is Singapore's lead agency for fostering world-class scientific research and talent. A*STAR actively nurtures public sector research and development in biomedical sciences, physical sciences and engineering, with a particular focus on fields essential to Singapore's manufacturing industry and new growth industries. It oversees 22 research institutes, consortia and centers, and supports extramural research with the universities, hospital research centers and other local and international partners. A*STAR also sends scholars for undergraduate, graduate and postdoctoral training at universities.

About Illinois: Founded in 1867, the Urbana-Champaign campus has a total enrollment of 31,181 undergraduate students and more than 10,711 graduate students. The campus has 2,445 full-time equivalent faculty members and is among the top five universities that award doctorates annually. Illinois recently was ranked in the top five in many engineering disciplines and 15th among all public U.S. universities in federal money spent on research.