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Commerce grant increases DSU research capacity - Daily Leader Extra : Top Stories

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Commerce grant increases DSU research capacity

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Posted: Monday, June 3, 2019 1:57 pm

New doors are opening at Dakota State University in more ways than one.

Not only will the Madison Cyber Labs be opening later this year, but the university will also be throwing open the doors to new opportunities as a result of a grant awarded by the U.S. Department of Commerce. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross announced on May 22 that DSU would receive a $1.46 million grant through the Economic Development Administration (EDA).

"This grant is such an important component to the developing research programs at Dakota State," said DSU President Jos‚-Marie Griffiths in a prepared statement.

"This high-speed network will allow our faculty and students to conduct important cyber research which will benefit the public," she continued. "The network will also establish new private and public partnerships, and further develop existing collaborations which will advance the workforce development pipeline for the important field of computer and cyber sciences."

At its most basic level, the grant will enable DSU to carry the Research, Education and Economic Development (REED) network upgrade into campus facilities, according to Peter Hoesing, director of sponsored programs at DSU. Currently, the South Dakota Board of Regents is working to upgrade the network along the I-29 corridor from 10G to 100G.

The Regents will bring that secure, high-speed capacity to the gates of DSU. The grant will take it to campus connections in the Madison CyberLabs, the Heartland Technology Center, and the Beacom Institute of Technology.

"You still need all kinds of routers and switches and network cable and all kinds of other stuff to get it the rest of the way to the labs in those three buildings. Even once you get it there, you'll need more switches and routers and cable and all manner of other technology, right down to the computers themselves to set up fully customizable research environment in those labs" Hoesing explained.

The EDA grant is different than other grants in providing resources to do this, he explained. Most grants limit the amount a recipient can spend on equipment, on what is known in funding circles as a "gear grab."

"They said, 'We really want to fund capacity-building infrastructure," Hoesing said.

With the grant to DSU, the EDA is helping to build the university's technology infrastructure which will have a snowball effect.

"It'll expand our capacity for research in a pretty major way," Hoesing indicated.

The research network will enable researchers to transmit data securely at unprecedented speeds. However, the real benefit is being a separate network from the one used for day-to-day operations and personal business. This will assure funding organizations that DSU faculty and student researchers will be able to fulfill contracts.

"Those contracts are constantly on a timeline. They [researchers] can't afford to be thrown off by somebody who just really feels like downloading 200 movies at once," Hoesing explained.

The dedicated network and increased capacity are, in turn, expected to have a direct effect on future research prospects.

"It makes us competitive. ... It makes us eligible for a whole range of ambitious funding mechanisms we couldn't really think about before," Hoesing indicated. "It does the same thing with private-sector partnerships."

He explained this is vastly different than going to a partner or funding source and saying, "We have some super-smart people here that can sure use an infusion of money for technology."

The new research is then expected to lead to the creation of jobs as companies emerge out of the research being done at DSU.

"The EDA is counting on that, and they want us to report on that," Hoesing said. While most of the work on the new high-speed research network will be completed by fall, reporting on the impact of the grant will continue for nine years.

To facilitate the process of translating research into jobs, the DSU Foundation purchased the Heartland Technology Center last year to be a business incubator to house DSU spinoff companies and start-up companies relying on the expertise of DSU students.

For the university, these developments are exciting because a new phase of Griffith's vision for DSU is being realized. With the MadLabs, the Heartland Tech Center and the research network all in place, research and development at DSU is taking a step beyond being a programmatic initiative. This is expected to lead to a new stage of growth.

"It's cyclic and at its best a very satisfying cycle," Hoesing said.

Both he and Griffiths are quick to note DSU is not alone in its efforts to accomplish these goals. In her statement, Griffiths spoke not only of what the grant means to DSU, but also expressed appreciation to the partners which are helping the university to advance in this area.

"We thank all the local and federal partners who have supported this program," Griffiths stated.

The EDA grant will be matched locally with MadLabs building project funds. These funds came from donors and from former Gov. Dennis Daugaard's Future Fund.

In a press release from the Department of Commerce, South Dakota's Congressional delegation commented on the award.

"This high-speed network will give students, faculty and staff of the MadLabs facility excellent research opportunities in computer science, cyber operations and digital forensics," Sen. Mike Rounds said. "It will help to make sure DSU remains a top choice for students seeking an excellent education that will prepare them to be future leaders in these vital fields."

Sen. John Thune remarked that the grant will give DSU "the opportunity to build off its well-established success," and said, "I'm excited to see what the future holds for this project and those that are surely yet to come."

Rep. Dusty Johnson noted that DSU is "a top national leader in technology and cyber security," and said, "Those of us in South Dakota have long known that, but this grant is yet another example that their excellence is being recognized nationally as well."

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