Northern Kentucky University (Highland Heights) broke ground recently on a new, $55 million, ultra Center for Informatics that will house the university's new College of Informatics, which combines all information-related disciplines under one college

The center, largely funded with state dollars, is a key strategy for the region's 2015 goal to create 50,000 new jobs.

Expected to drive information-related business growth within the region, the center will house what NKU said will be some of the most advanced technology in the Midwest region.

The facility will feature a Computer-Assisted Virtual Environment (CAVE) that will be available for businesses to use for product development. While several large corporations boast their own CAVEs for R&D, the one located at NKU's Center for Informatics will be one of only a few CAVEs available for public use in the world.

With the help of federal funding secured by Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky), the center also will also boast a digitorum that will be capable of running complex simulations in homeland security, computer security and financial security. It will also support other industries.

The university said the digitorium can double as a network operations center that will allow broad use by a variety of private and government sectors.

Frank Muehleman, vice president and general manager, Dell North America Public Business Group, said the center's impact will be felt for generations. "The Center for Informatics at NKU exemplifies how business and academia can partner to maximize the impact of technology on student learning and achievement," he said. "The center's progressive model, coupled with a fully integrated curriculum and mobile technologies, will help prepare NKU students to compete and excel in a global workforce."

Steve Hunt, CEO and partner of CIO Partner (Fairfax, Virginia), said the new NKU Center will be a key tool in the development of the next generation workforce in the technology sector. "NKU's current curriculum in media informatics, healthcare informatics, Web 2.0, iPhone development, SAP/ERP and business intelligence and analytics demonstrate that the college intends to stay ... on the cutting edge of business requirements for workforce talent.

The College of Informatics was founded in 2005 through the reorganization of three departments – Information Systems (now Business Informatics), Computer Science (formerly combined with Mathematics) and Communication – from three different colleges. The number of majors in these departments has steadily increased since the creation of the college, and it now has over 1,300 students pursuing an informatics major in just its fourth year of operation.