$100 million Center for Networked Intelligent Components and Environments to drive smart, reconfigurable technologies


The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s Grainger College of Engineering and Foxconn Interconnect Technology (FIT) are partnering on a new $100 million Center for Networked Intelligent Components and Environments (C-NICE). The center, based on the university’s campus in Urbana-Champaign, will serve as a global hub for the smart, reconfigurable technology that will drive the manufacturing plants, medical environments, autonomous vehicles and smart homes of the future.


C-NICE projects

Several projects with team members from FIT and Grainger Engineering are set to get underway. Additional projects are expected to begin in December 2019.

The first set of projects will include the development of new measurement techniques for nanoscale components, new methods for capturing and curating manufacturing data, safe robot-human interaction paradigms, and new sensors and sensor data-processing techniques. 

C-NICE will launch October 1, 2019, and will be headquartered in The Grainger College of Engineering’s Coordinated Science Laboratory, one of nation’s oldest and most prestigious interdisciplinary university research laboratories. Placid Ferreira, a professor of Mechanical Science and Engineering, will be C-NICE’s founding director.

“It’s with great excitement we announce the company that I am so proud of and the university that touched my life coming together to create the Center,” said Sidney Lu, CEO, of FIT. “By co-developing intelligent components and technologies and the eco-system in which they operate, we can do the same for any number of devices and environments like factories, cars, homes, and hospitals. The potential impact technology has on the future is limitless.”

C-NICE will be supported by a $50 million, 10-year commitment from FIT to fund programs and research, the first of its
Placid Ferreira, Director of C-NICE
Placid Ferreira, Director of C-NICE
kind for FIT. The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, meanwhile, will partner with the Discovery Partners Institute (DPI) and Illinois Innovation Network (IIN)—statewide initiatives led by the U of I System to foster discovery and innovation—to invest $50 million to expand facilities to house the C-NICE center and research infrastructure and to hire faculty to advance the research and translational efforts.

Collaborative teams made up of researchers from FIT and the University of Illinois will work together on a broad array of projects, selected and funded on an annual basis, as part of C-NICE.  

Potential projects include ones designed to advance aspects of FIT’s core businesses for the computing, communication, and sensing infrastructure that constitute the backbone of the Internet of Things-enabled systems and environments. Other projects could include precision components, such as electronic and optoelectronic connectors (like a network cable or HDMI cable), antennas (like those used in a cell phone), sensors (like those that cars use to park themselves), and parts used in digital cameras. Additional forward-looking projects exploring advances for next-generation communications infrastructure, consumer electronics, and mobile devices for the intelligent, safe environments of the future could be selected.

“Intelligent components and environments are an important focus area,” said Rashid Bashir, dean of The Grainger College of Engineering. “As Grainger Engineering aggressively expands its basic and translational research enterprise, we will tackle what is most important to society and to our partners in industry.”

“The Grainger College of Engineering and FIT have established a tremendous vision for C-NICE. The support that FIT is providing—along with collaborations across campus with powerhouses like the National Center for Supercomputing Applications and throughout the University of Illinois System with DPI/IIN—will allow us to deliver on it,” said Robert Jones, chancellor of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.