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You Visit Tour. Webb Lion Fountain. June 1 2017. Photo David B. Hollingsworth

ODU Assumes Leadership Role in Go Virginia Projects

By Jon Cawley

Old Dominion will further its efforts to support the Commonwealth's economy and contribute to the development of a high-tech workforce through leadership roles in two of the inaugural GO Virginia projects that recently received nearly $1.3 million in funding.

The approved projects include the creation of the Hampton Roads Cyber Collaboration Laboratory (HRCyber Co-Lab), which will focus on innovation in cybersecurity, data analytics, autonomous vehicles and virtual technologies markets in Hampton Roads; and establishing the Virginia Digital Shipbuilding Workforce Program (VDSP). The projects will receive $642,713 and $647,540 in funding, respectively.

Both proposals were coordinated by Old Dominion and will be run through the University's Virginia Modeling, Analysis and Simulation Center (VMASC).

The GO Virginia initiative seeks to support collaborative projects that grow and diversify the state's regional economies by identifying opportunities to create high-paying jobs.

"Never before in Virginia have we undertaken this regional, bottom-up approach to critically analyze our regional economies and propose ideas on how to better position each region for future growth," said John O. "Dubby" Wynne, chairman of the GO Virginia board. "The level of collaboration and cooperation coming out of our regions is a great sign for economic development in the Commonwealth, and this is just the start. We are looking forward to building on our early successes and seeing new multi-regional collaborations and more game-changing projects in the future."

The HRCyber Co-Lab will include four main components:

  • Virginia Cyber Trail, an innovation outreach effort to link educators, practitioners, researchers and investors;
  • Industry collaborative, connecting industry to academic and federal laboratories to accelerate the transfer of innovation and technology;
  • Cyber arena, a virtual environment to innovate, test and transition new technologies into the collaborative network; and
  • Digital Entrant Program, a digital jobs creation effort focusing on internships with industry partners and incentivizing startups and companies in technology markets.

GO Virginia support will formalize HRCyber with an industry-led governing board and extend its scope," said Eric Weisel, interim VMASC director. "The HRCyber Co-Lab will be a highly advanced collaboration hub at Old Dominion University's Tri-Cities campus - an in-kind match."

HRCyber and VMASC will anchor a Tri-Cities innovation district in modeling and simulation to include autonomous and virtual systems. The program will be led by R. Michael Robinson, a research associate professor at VMASC, Weisel said.

The Virginia Digital Shipbuilding Workforce Program will create a regional and statewide pipeline program to train about 8,500 workers - including skilled craftsmen, engineers, designers and IT professionals - to work in the new digital manufacturing environment and with hands on learning at VMASC's Digital Shipbuilding Lab, sponsored by the U.S. Navy. VDSP will also support Hampton Roads' existing advanced manufacturing and shipbuilding clusters.

The program is a collaboration between ODU, Newport News Shipbuilding, SIEMENS, the Virginia Ship Repair Association, Fairlead and a statewide network of industry, education and training providers.

"Recently, the manufacturing industry has been transformed by the emergence of disruptive digital technology," said Jennifer Michaeli, an assistant professor of engineering technology with joint appointments at VMASC and ODU's Batten College of Engineering and Technology, who will lead the digital shipbuilding program. "Referred by some as 'the 4th Industrial Revolution' and by others as "Industry 4.0,' this transformation offers the promise of reducing manufacturing costs and increasing efficiency. But success requires an upskilled workforce ready to work in the digital realm."

In a recent editorial, Morris Foster, Old Dominion's vice president for research; and Larry Filer, an associate vice president for economic development and entrepreneurship, wrote that the GO Virginia initiative is a prime example of the force developed when higher education institutions partner with private and public-sector entities to solve larger problems.

"Universities are ready-made regional conveners, offering hundreds of smart faculty members who are experts on various subject matters, thousands of students who are future members of the workforce and innovative physical spaces in which to work," they wrote, in the Virginian Pilot. "In addition, research universities often can provide more services to business and industry than can local governments with limited bandwidths."

The GO Virginia coalition is comprised of business and community leaders, partners in education and government, and interested Virginians from across the Commonwealth who support regional cooperation on private-sector growth, job creation, and career readiness. Bipartisan and business-led, the coalition favors state incentives to encourage collaboration among business, education, and government in each region, providing a framework for implementation of the private sector-focused strategies of leading business organizations and political leaders in both parties. Learn more at www.govirginia.org.

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