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Wednesday, October 27, 2021

New research center comes to UC Davis

UC Davis officials have released the concept for the uHub, a conglomerate of virtual and physical research units, that has become the product of the many proposed ideas received from constituencies, after a request for innovation hub concept proposals were issued last February.

The uHub will aim to consolidate the university’s various research units, while addressing critical issues that face the world community today, such as energy, food, human and animal health, environmental sustainability and technology.

UC Davis West Village, the nation’s largest planned zero net energy community, is to house uHub’s energy-related research units. This will in turn foster successful collaboration among various research units, provide undergraduate and graduate students with opportunities to learn in the fields that interest them and essentially stimulate the transfer of technologies from concepts and the lab to generate revenue in the marketplace.

Assistant vice chancellor Karl Mohr, who took part in the proposal reviewing and formulation of the uHub concept, said by bringing these various research units together they hope to create more opportunities for the private sector to come in partner with the different groups on research that is important both in the public and private sectors.

“By bringing these units together, we’re hoping to create more opportunities for cross-fertilization … for interaction between these units as well as outside parties that are interested in this,” Mohr said.

The request for proposals collected a wide range of concepts that would potentially contribute to the overarching concept of the uHub. Throughout the proposals, frequent themes would emerge that they felt the final result should address, Mohr said.

“The process was not set up to necessarily pick a single one,” he said. “And, in fact, as we looked at various proposals … what emerged were these themes of really needing to address some of the issues related to technology transfer but also this notion of creating more clear portals … into the university’s research enterprise.”

Though all serving the same goals, research units of the uHub can be placed in either a virtual network of new or existing resources, or in a physical space or location, depending on the issue being researched.

uHub, with the goal of increasing university involvement in the economic development of the region and state, will also create opportunities for students, faculty and staff to engage in research projects, specific to their interests. uHub will serve to provide educational and networking opportunities, as well as demonstrate the commercial worth of ideas and inventions.

Leading the reviewing process is Ralph Hexter, provost and executive vice chancellor. He said uHub will have an inevitable increase in student and faculty involvement.

“If our idea of co-locating related research units results in increased private sector collaborations,” Hexter said, “I imagine that not only will there be additional opportunities for students to engage with faculty in cutting edge research, but also, we hope, future employment opportunities if university research ultimately is spun-off into viable commercial business.”

Mitchel Benson, associate vice chancellor for university communications, explains the uHub will assist in identifying the world’s most critical issues and will help to address them.

“I think the most important thing about how we’re evolving this university,” Benson said, “Is we’re acknowledging and accepting the fact, that one area where UC Davis is uniquely stronger than other universities is our ability to collaborate… [and] innovate at the intersection of these critical issues.”

The uHub will highlight UC Davis’ strengths as a collaborative university, Benson said.

“The interdisciplinary nature is in the DNA of UC Davis, it’s always been in our DNA, it’s been in the DNA from the first century and will continue into the second century,” he said. “It’s that spirit of collaboration and interdisciplinary research that puts UC Davis above and beyond the other public research universities around here, in our nation.”

The West Village community, home to the first uHub, generates only the amount of energy the community needs, and already houses 800 community members, 900 members of faculty and 700 students. It will also be home to the Sacramento Community College Davis Center, which is the first community college extension on a University of California campus. An open house, ribbon-cutting ceremony and barbeque will be held to celebrate the completion of the West Village community.

The free event will take place from 9:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. this Saturday. Members of the public are invited to learn about the energy-efficient features of West Village and to tour the community. The event will include words from speakers and representatives of UC Davis on the community’s newest developments.

MUNA SADEK can be reached at campus@theaggie.org.

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