The Wireless Networking and Communications Group (WNCG), a research center within The University of Texas at Austin’s Cockrell School of Engineering, has been awarded a prestigious National Science Foundation (NSF) Industry/University Collaborative Research Center.
The award provides WNCG with about $400,000 in initial funding over a five-year period. The funding is renewable up to 15 years. The I/UCRC program is an annual competition created by NSF to reward university research centers that demonstrate great promise for research breakthroughs while exhibiting a strong track record of collaboration with companies and other universities.
“WNCG is one of the world’s leading wireless research centers, involving more than 16 faculty and 120 graduate students in electrical engineering, aerospace engineering and computer science. The crucial support that NSF has provided today will allow WNCG to accelerate its tremendous research on the greatest wireless challenges that society will need to solve in the next several decades,” said Cockrell School of Engineering Dean Gregory L. Fenves.
WNCG’s research funding has exceeded $20 million since its formation in 2002 when founding director Professor Ted Rappaport was recruited to the Cockrell School’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. Unique to large academic centers, WNCG rotates the leadership among its faculty. Currently, WNCG is led by electrical engineering Professor Jeffrey Andrews, and has 13 industrial affiliate sponsors: ATandT, Cisco Systems, U.S. Department of Defense, Panasonic, Yokogawa, Powerwave Technologies, Commscope Corp., Samsung, National Instruments, Dell, Qualcomm, Texas Instruments and Hauwei, who participate as Industrial Affiliate members, as well as major government support from the Army Research Laboratory, NSF and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.
The NSF center status will allow The University of Texas at Austin to significantly leverage industry funding for research because many large corporations specifically seek to fund NSF research centers.
“The award from NSF allows WNCG to continue growing its current operations by bolstering its industrial affiliate sponsorships, and creates a powerhouse of university researchers across five major universities that can solve major problems of national importance and of relevance to industry,” said Rappaport.
WNCG joins existing I/UCRC center sites at Polytechnic Institute of New York University, Virginia Tech, the University of Virginia and Auburn University to become part of the Wireless Internet Center for Advanced Technologies (WICAT).
Rappaport, WNCG’s founding director, will be the WICAT site director at The University of Texas at Austin, along with Andrews and electrical engineering Professor Robert Heath Jr. who will also help lead WNCG’s participation as a NSF center site.
Starting this fall, WNCG’s annual wireless industry/research forum, known as the Texas Wireless Summit, will be expanded to include industry sponsors and researchers from the other four universities in WICAT.
The NSF I/UCRC center award is only the second at The University of Texas at Austin. In August of last year, the university and Texas AandM University collaborated to win a center in hybrid electric vehicles.