SARASOTA -- The Sarasota County Commission is considering giving the University of Florida a $1 million grant over the next five years to bring a university-based engineering program to the county. As a side benefit, the program will place dozens of engineering students into internships with Manatee and Sarasota county employers.
The grant, if approved during a special session Friday, will help pay for a University of Florida program called the "Innovation Station."
Intended to attract more students into the engineering field, the program will focus primarily on computer science and information technology.
According to the funding request from the University of Florida, the school's College of Engineering intends to "provide a cooperative engineering internship program at its main campus in Gainesville to serve Sarasota County through community outreach services."
The $1 million grant will help pay startup costs, including hiring staff and leasing and equipping the Sarasota County facility. The grant covers about one-third of costs in the five-year budget for the Innovation Station.
Innovation Station includes a cooperative relationship with State College of Florida under which UF freshman and sophomore students will take engineering courses at SCF's Manatee-Sarasota campuses, while interning with local companies. SCF students may also participate in the program and will be eligible to transfer to UF to finish their degrees.
SCF President Carol Probstfeld said the college will likely see about 10 UF students in the program when it starts in the fall of 2017.
"We're very excited to
have this partnership with the University of Florida," she said. "For our institution, it brings a high level of awareness."
Innovation Station is, in part, inteneded to increase the number of trained, employable engineering professionals with ties to the Manatee-Sarasota area. Probstfeld said she is pleased to be part of it.
"Since I've been in my role, I've heard the need for engineers," she said. "It will be a highlight to supply those engineers."
The program has been planned for some time. Mark Huey, president and CEO of the Economic Development Corporation of Sarasota County, said in a memo to the Sarasota County Commission that the parties involved have been working on bringing the center to Sarasota for 18 months.
"We believe that the UF Innovation Station has the promise over time to grow our county's innovation economy," Huey said in his memo. "It will serve as a 'concierge' service for our existing tech businesses to access the college's innovation assets of students, faculty, research, intellectual property and other resources."
The program will extend beyond the two colleges. It also will make available online engineering entrepreneurship and innovation offerings, insight to university technology, and an introduction to potential student interns and targeted workshops, according information provided to the commission. Educational offerings will be available to K-12 students and institutions.
Matt M. Johnson, Herald business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7027 or on Twitter @MattAtBradenton.