A former Air Force hangar at Griffiss International Airport in Rome will soon house a $12 million center for collaborative research into the next generations of computer technology and artificial intelligence.
The Open Innovation Campus is a partnership planned for Building 100 at Griffiss.
Involved are Oneida County, the owner of the airport; SUNY Polytechnic Institute, which is expanding its research and education in emerging areas of computer science; the Air Force Research Laboratory Information Directorate, also known as Rome Lab; and the Griffiss Institute, which facilitates turning Rome Lab research into commercial applications.
The center is intended to link researchers from government, industry and academia to share top minds, ideas and facilities and expand upon the $2 billion annual federal investment in Rome Lab.
The 40,000 square-foot, three-floor facility will be renovated to include two quantum labs and two labs, event space and training and classrooms. The labs will house research into neuromorphic computer science, a form of artificial intelligence aimed at expanding computers’ capabilities more efficiently by mimicking the way the human brain adjusts itself as it learns, and quantum computing, a different approach to building and using computers to make them far faster, efficient and capable of more applications.
The center is seen as helping keep and grow the commercialization of research done at Rome Lab, which was established for World War II military aviation research and now develops command, control, and communications for the Air Force. Its main building is near Building 100, but the lab has also spawned spin-off businesses that work on commercial applications of the lab’s research, much of it in cybersecurity.
The area economic impact from the Rome lab was estimated at $412 million for fiscal 2018, according the most recent annual Air Force analysis. It employs about 780 people directly and is an anchor of the 6,000-employee Griffiss Business and Technology Park. Some 6,000 people work at the Griffiss Business and Technology Park built on and around the air force base closed in 1995, according to local officials.
Oneida County is contributing $5.6 million toward the project, and Empire State Development and the New York State Department of Transportation Aviation Bureau are providing $1.4 million and $1.5 million respectively, according to county officials. Additional funding will also come from Griffiss Institute.
The organizations involved announced the plan at a news conference at the site Monday morning. Construction is scheduled to begin this fall with completion by next April.
“The Open Innovation Campus will provide a collaborative hub that will produce revolutionary research from those on the forefront of cutting-edge technology,” Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente said in a statement. “This transformative ecosystem will help solve complex computing problems for the Air Force and ultimately strengthen our national defense. Oneida County is proud to invest in this forward-thinking partnership with Rome Lab, Griffiss Institute and SUNY Poly that will establish us as a trailblazer in the emerging field of Quantum Information Science and spur economic development around it.”
Col. Timothy J. Lawrence, Director of the AFRL Information Directorate, lauded the center as a way to bring together leading researchers in the field.
“We want to use this new infrastructure to grow a Quantum Information Science and Artificial Intelligence hub for the Air Force, our partners and the region,” Lawrence said. “This collaborative environment and business construct is one of tools we have decided to pursue that I think will aid our researchers in developing future transformational strategic capabilities for the nation’s defense.”
The center will help the Griffiss Institute expand its work in technology transfer, commercialization and outreach in science, technology and math, and in basic research, said Griffiss Institute President William Wolf.
For SUNY Poly, which has a campus nearby in Marcy, the center will advance research into quantum computing and provide new educational experiences for students, interim president Grace Wang said.
Also involved is revamping the drone testing and validation facility at Griffiss. Drones are more formally referred to as “unmanned aircraft systems,” or UAS.
“When complete, Griffiss International Airport will be the epicenter for two emerging and transcendent technologies: UAS and quantum computing,” Oneida County Aviation Commissioner Chad Lawrence said.