New RENCI center at UNC Charlotte to focus on urbanization and regional growth

CHAPEL HILL, NC, October 24, 2007–The Renaissance Computing Institute (RENCI) today announced a partnership with the University of North Carolina at Charlotte to create a new RENCI engagement center focused on forecasting urban growth and its impacts.

RENCI at UNC Charlotte will be administered by UNC Charlotte’s Urban Institute and will be developed as a partnership among the Urban Institute, the Center for Applied Geographic Information Science and the Charlotte Visualization Center. The three campus entities will collaborate on interdisciplinary research that addresses trends in land use and development in the Charlotte area, and the effects of urbanization on natural resources, traffic patterns, urban infrastructure, quality of life and disaster response.

Using resources provided through RENCI’s statewide organization, RENCI at UNC Charlotte will develop models to forecast future urban development, create and disseminate interactive, visual simulations of data on urbanization trends, and deploy visual decision support tools that stakeholders will be able to use to develop and assess sustainable growth and economic development policies.

The new center at UNC Charlotte will contribute its research and expertise to RENCI’s statewide mission of solving problems important to North Carolina through collaborations among research institutions, government and business. It will link via the North Carolina Research and Education Network to RENCI headquarters in Chapel Hill, to centers on the Duke, UNC Chapel Hill and NC State campuses, and to engagement centers at UNC Asheville and East Carolina University in Greenville.

“RENCI at UNC Charlotte will expand our reach into our state’s largest metropolitan area and will bring a new core of university expertise to bear on an issue of great importance to North Carolina, our region and our nation,” said RENCI Director Dan Reed. “The work done at this new RENCI center will be valuable to urban and regional planners, developers, government officials, and citizens and will serve as a model for other communities wrestling with issues related to urbanization. We welcome our Charlotte colleagues to the RENCI virtual organization and look forward to many collaborations.”

RENCI was launched in 2004 as a major collaborative venture of UNC Chapel Hill, Duke and NC State universities with a mission of initiating multidisciplinary research to address problems important to North Carolina. The institute received state funding in 2005 and launched multidisciplinary research efforts focused on planning and mitigating natural disasters, finding the genetic causes of disease, and using technology to improve healthcare.  The institute is designed to be flexible, able to address a range of complex problems, to engage experts in the university system, in business and in government, and to share resources and expertise among its seven locations.

“Being a RENCI center means we are part of a statewide infrastructure that includes other visualization systems, software, data, storage systems, and many scientists and technology experts at sister universities,” said Jeff Michael, director of the UNC Charlotte Urban Institute and head of RENCI at UNC Charlotte. “This collaboration will give our work statewide and national visibility because of RENCI’s connections across North Carolina and in the national research community. We are excited about the possibilities.”

In addition to Michael, leadership for RENCI at UNC Charlotte will come from a research team that includes: Bill Ribarsky, director of the Charlotte Visualization Center; Jean-Claude Thill, Knight Distinguished Professor of Public Policy; and Ross Meentemeyer, director of the Center for Applied GIS.

Using urbanization growth models created at the Center for Applied GIS and the UNC Charlotte Urban Institute, RENCI at UNC Charlotte will leverage the Charlotte Visualization Center’s advanced visualization resources to develop a “Renaissance Situation Room,” featuring interactive, high-resolution and stereoscopic display systems, multi-user touch-sensitive surfaces, and tracking devices. The room will be used for visual analysis of models, simulations and real-time data. Through the UNC Charlotte Urban Institute, RENCI at UNC Charlotte also will implement a strong education and outreach program aimed at sharing the center’s research and urban planning decision support tools with government, community groups and the business community.