The Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition ceremonially broke ground today (Feb. 3) on a new $30 million project in downtown Pensacola, setting up the next chapter in the research facility’s journey of innovation and collaboration.
The IHMC Healthspan, Resilience and Performance complex will be a leading-edge lab and office building that will create a research hub, based in Northwest Florida, for advancing human healthspan, resilience, and performance with the potential to lead the field. The facility is an investment in the intellectual capital of Northwest Florida, creating a hub of excellence in human performance research that will draw leading scientific minds to the region.
“This facility, and the people housed in it, really will be one-of-a-kind, and it will be a reputational jewel for our community and region,” IHMC’s founder and CEO Dr. Ken Ford said.
IHMC is funding the cost of the building. Partnering with the Institute are two state agencies, Triumph Gulf Coast, a nonprofit corporation created to manage the funds from the settlement of the BP Deepwater Horizon 2010 oil spill disaster; and Space Florida, the agency charged with supporting and growing the state’s aviation and aerospace industries. Triumph is funding a substantial portion of the specialized research equipment to be housed in the new facility. Space Florida is collaborating with IHMC on research and technology.
“What IHMC represents in its research activities, grand vision, and direction is precisely what Triumph Gulf Coast seeks to support and encourage,” said David Bear, chairman of the Triumph Gulf Coast Board of Directors. Bear said Triumph is proud to invest in the future of IHMC.
“From here, bright minds from across the globe will join to collaborate, innovate, and develop ideas that may fundamentally change the way we act, move, respond, heal,” he said. “It is so cool that this amazing, next-generation research is happening from our beautiful city and from our wider region in Northwest Florida.”
Howard Haug, executive vice president, treasurer and chief investment officer for Space Florida, said partnering with IHMC has been an exciting collaboration.
“Partnerships are key to realizing amazing things,” Haug said. “We look forward to the completion of this complex, where members of our team will co-mingle with IHMC and its other strategic partners in military, industry, and academia, to further innovation and technological developments important to Florida’s aerospace presence and future.”
DAG Architects, partnered with Atlanta-headquartered Cooper Carry, designed the building. Brasfield & Gorrie was chosen to lead the construction of the facility located at the corner of Garden and Alcaniz streets in Pensacola.
When complete, it will expand IHMC’s downtown Pensacola campus to three primary buildings and will be consistent with, and complementary to, the Levin Center for IHMC Research, which primarily houses research in robotics, human-machine teaming, and intelligent networked systems.
“We will be collaborating closely with regional institutions and organizations that share an interest in human health span and performance, and these collaborations will lead to innovative spinoff opportunities and technology transfer,” Ford said. “Certainly, the addition of this complex will bolster the regional economy through new jobs and new funding in federal and industry-sponsored research.”
“This facility, and the scientists and engineers that it will host, will permit IHMC to be one of the few research institutions able to work effectively at all levels from a single molecule of interest to a whole human, and even teams of humans and machines.” Ford said.
Ford said a unique aspect of IHMC, which will be substantially advanced by the new complex, is the ability to integrate researchers who specialize in healthspan, performance, and resilience with computational scientists, artificial intelligence researchers, and roboticists.
“Innovation is place-based,” he said. “This exciting new research complex in the heart of historic downtown Pensacola will enable continuous interactions and frequent collisions of people and ideas across many academic disciplines. IHMC is fundamentally a habitat for innovation.”
It also is a strong symbol of IHMC’s commitment to investing in Pensacola itself. IHMC was among the pioneers of seeing the potential of downtown, locating its headquarters in the city after outgrowing its space from its beginnings on campus at the University of West Florida.
Delarian Wiggins, Pensacola City Council president, said it is encouraging to see IHMC’s continued dedication to and investment in the City. He also noted the Institute’s commitment to community outreach through Evening Lectures, Science Saturdays and more demonstrates its commitment to making Pensacola the best place it can be.
“As a City leader, it’s exciting to know that IHMC’s success has sustained employment of over 100 individuals from across the world, certainly contributing to our economy but, more so, adding to the cultural diversity and international understanding within our community,” Wiggins said. “Your institution’s focus on promoting a great environment where our citizens can ‘live, work, and play’ is a fundamental cornerstone of any successful community.”
The project should be completed in early 2024.
IHMC is a not-for-profit research institute of the Florida University System where researchers pioneer science and technology aimed at leveraging and extending human capabilities. IHMC researchers and staff collaborate extensively with the government, industry, and academia to help develop breakthrough science and technology. IHMC research partners have included: DARPA, the National Science Foundation, NASA, Army, Navy, Air Force, National Institutes of Health, IBM, Microsoft, Honda, Boeing, Lockheed, and many others.