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UC Berkeley-led initiative to promote societal benefits of information technology wins $7.5 million grant from NSF
25 September 2001

By Sarah Yang

Berkeley - The National Science Foundation today (Tues., Sept. 25) announced a five-year, $7.5 million grant to the Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society (CITRIS), a new University of California, Berkeley-led initiative that will sponsor innovative research to solve some of the nation's toughest economic and social challenges.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) grant will support work in two of the major application areas that CITRIS is exploring: energy efficiency and disaster preparedness. Campus researchers affiliated with CITRIS, for example, plan to equip buildings with wireless sensor networks to monitor energy use - technology that could save as much as $7 billion in California's energy costs and reduce emissions of carbon by 5 million metric tons each year. That same technology can also be used to monitor the safety of the structure, help occupants and emergency personnel respond to disasters, and suggest areas that may require maintenance.

CITRIS technologies already have helped people all over the world find out whether their friends and family are safe in the aftermath of the deadly terrorist attacks on Sept. 11. A UC Berkeley computer science faculty member and two graduate students created a Web site powered by "Millennium" - a cluster of 1,000 processors that are networked together. The computers, donated by private industry, handled up to 100 Web queries per second.

The awards are part of the federal government's Information Technology Research (ITR) initiative, a program that began in 2000 and is designed to foster innovative information technology research. The UC Berkeley grant for CITRIS is one of eight large ITR awards nationwide totaling between $5.5 million and $13.75 million each. In all, the NSF is awarding 309 grants totaling $156 million over the next three to five years. They include four other awards totaling more than $1.1 million to UC Berkeley professors, two of whom are in the College of Engineering.

"NSF is proud to be a leader with these bold ITR projects," said NSF director Rita Colwell, who announced the awards at a presentation today to the President's Information Technology Advisory Committee. "Through long-term, high-risk research, we expect a wide range of positive results that will benefit the nation as a whole."

CITRIS - a partnership between UC Berkeley, UC Santa Cruz, UC Davis and UC Merced - was proposed to the State of California last year in response to a bold and visionary plan by Gov. Gray Davis to create the California Institutes for Science and Innovation (CISI). The state is investing $100 million in the CITRIS institute over the next four years, and that amount will be matched by at least $200 million in additional support from companies, federal agencies and private donors.

"I am delighted that the state's investment in CITRIS is already beginning to bring in additional federal research dollars," Davis said. "CITRIS and the other CISI institutes will keep California at the cutting-edge of advanced technologies - fostering economic growth and creating high-tech, high-wage jobs. CITRIS will also ensure that these new technologies serve the public interest by cutting our energy bill, protecting the environment, expanding access to educational opportunity through distance learning, and saving lives and property in disasters."

"CITRIS is unprecedented in its scale and scope," said UC Berkeley College of Engineering Dean A. Richard Newton. "This new NSF grant will allow our faculty and students to design and build the underlying technologies for the Internet of the 21st century, now sometimes referred to as the 'Evernet' - a dependable, reliable and secure information technology infrastructure that will connect trillions of devices, not just millions of computers. This infrastructure is a key component of the CITRIS research agenda; it will be used to tackle and solve tough problems that will improve the quality of life and safety for Californians and people throughout the world."

"The research agenda of CITRIS is not just more and better technology, but making the massive amounts of information provided accessible and useful to all people who need it," said James Demmel, CITRIS chief scientist and author of the proposal.

CITRIS also is supported by major grants from other government agencies such as the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. Founding corporate partners include many leading high-tech companies: BroadVision, Ericsson, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Infineon Technologies, Intel, Marvell Technology Group, Microsoft, Nortel Networks, STMicroelectronics and Sun Microsystems.