Building Designed to Inspire Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Research Across Disciplines
Photos by Stephanie S. Cordle
The University of Maryland this morning dedicated the E.A. Fernandez IDEA (Innovate, Design and Engineer for America) Factory, a $67 million building designed to foster technology innovations and advances through collaboration across engineering, the arts, business and science. The A. James Clark School of Engineering’s new 60,000-square-foot facility is the only building at UMD funded entirely by private philanthropy.
“The IDEA Factory is a spectacular addition to UMD’s robust and growing innovation ecosystem,” said university President Darryll J. Pines. “Its world-class facilities for education, innovation, research and product development in robotics, quantum, engineering, transportation and manufacturing will be transformative. Inspired by a namesake who brought pioneering ideas to market, our community will conceive ideas, create designs, build prototypes, develop business plans and bring to market products that will spur economic prosperity in the region, state and nation.”
Located next to the Jeong H. Kim Engineering Building, the IDEA Factory features research and student programs and activities including the:
The IDEA Factory’s movable walls and shared spaces will promote dialogue between students, entrepreneurs and faculty who are working in fields such as multimedia, robotics, rotorcraft and quantum engineering. Particularly striking is a façade dominated by an enormous window made from laminated glass treated with a film that creates radiant color shifts, based on where viewers are standing.
“Engineering brings together great minds—people with different backgrounds and perspectives, looking at the same challenge in different ways—to collaborate on solutions that serve humanity. The IDEA Factory will catalyze those collaborations,” said Clark School Dean Samuel Graham, Jr. “When the world looks for solutions, it comes to Maryland Engineering. We are incredibly appreciative of our supporters for giving our students, faculty and staff a new place to do cutting-edge work.”
The building is named for Emilio Fernandez ’69, a Maryland engineering alum, entrepreneur and inventor who holds dozens of patents, including one that defined e-reading devices and is the most-cited U.S. patent ever issued. Many of these patents were co-invented with his friend, business partner and fellow Terp Angel Bezos ’69. Their inventions and their company, Pulse Electronics, transformed railroad operations. The building's cornerstone investment came from the A. James & Alice B. Clark Foundation’s Building Together: An Investment for Maryland in 2017.
Fernandez said he hopes the IDEA Factory will accelerate the inclusive collaboration that our society needs in order to solve its grand challenges. “Today’s problems are complex, and they require interdisciplinary solutions,” he said. “We have to combine our specialties so that our knowledge evolves into products and services that help humanity.”
The new IDEA Factory is the latest infrastructure addition to UMD’s vibrant innovation ecosystem. It includes UMD’s Discovery District, as well as the Brendan Iribe Center for Computer Science and Engineering (2019), a hub for technology, collaboration and discovery; A. James Clark Hall (2017), designed to foster development of transformative engineering and biomedical technologies to advance human health; and the Physical Sciences Complex (2013), created to provide ideal conditions for scientific collaboration, research and innovation with partners across campus and at local federal agencies like the National Institute of Standards and Technology, NASA Goddard and the National Institutes of Health.
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