December 13, 2010
PROVIDENCE, RI, Dec. 13 -- People say that knowledge is power, but today, high-ranking government, academic, industrial and community figures are announcing an innovative new statewide public-private partnership, called OSCAR, that will use knowledge to reduce power: A new OSCAR initiative will work to ensure that the bustling Knowledge District of Providence achieves as much energy efficiency as possible.
The Ocean State Consortium of Advanced Resources (OSCAR) is a partnership of leading universities, government institutions, private companies, and regional social agencies to tackle core statewide problems in health care, education, economic development, and energy and the environment. Their approach is to share assets including expertise, equipment, knowledge, services, tools, space and social networks. OSCAR volunteer members work together to conduct small-scale data driven pilot projects that will advance the state's ability to solve problems, grow and innovate.
A new OSCAR pilot project: "Green the Knowledge District," will include teams of industry and community members, university professors and students measuring the energy performance of the buildings in the area traditionally known as the Jewelry District in Providence. The effort is more than an exercise in meter reading. By establishing a baseline benchmark for the whole area, officials say, the research will help catalyze a master plan for investment in economic growth that is environmentally sustainable, and therefore both enduring and deeply beneficial.
In conjunction with the announcement, officials participating in a series of talks and panels beginning at 8:30 a.m. at Brown's Laboratories for Molecular Medicine at 70 Ship St., will include U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, RI General Treasurer Gina Raimondo, and Providence Mayor-elect Angel Taveras, as well as Brown University President Ruth Simmons and University of Rhode Island President David M. Dooley. Colin Harrison, the creator of IBM's Smarter City Initiative, will add a global innovation perspective when he takes the podium.
A partnership for Rhode Island
"As today's event demonstrates, OSCAR is a novel partnership for focusing the state's public and private resources to improve the health, the economy, the environment and quality of life for all Rhode Islanders," said Professor Clyde Briant, vice president of research at Brown and co-chair of OSCAR. "These core challenges faced by cities and states are complex, and they will require a multi-stakeholder approach to accelerate solutions. OSCAR is the platform to connect these people, collect good data, and drive decisions around investments, policies and economic growth."
OSCAR is an outcome of the partnership that debuted last year in the form of the massive IBM supercomputer -- nicknamed "Big Rhody" -- hosted at Brown. The supercomputer crunches through trillions of calculations per second, accelerating life sciences, environmental and other research capabilities at institutions statewide that share its capacity.
"Creating momentum and a shared vision across organizations, as OSCAR does, allows Rhode Island to address complex challenges," said Nick Bowen, vice president of Systems Architecture, IBM Software Group, and co-chair of OSCAR. "We're already seeing impact through stronger connections between institutions, as well as opportunities for shared investment. Building 'Smart' cities requires this type of innovative collaboration and creates near-term opportunities for economic growth and transformation."
Green buildings, green economy
With the right environmental performance data, building and business owners can increase efficiency and improve their financial bottom lines, said Bradley Moran, a University of Rhode Island oceanography professor who leads OSCAR'S Energy and Environment Collaboratory with Len Polizzotto of Draper Labs. With smart planning on a districtwide scale, he said, Providence and Rhode Island can gain a competitive advantage.
"If we build out the district in an energy and environmentally efficient manner, we can improve the overall operating efficiency, and that would be attractive to businesses," Moran said. "OSCAR is helpful in this case because it brings consensus to an approach to solve these core issues. With this approach, institutions are more willing to share their facilities' energy costs and recognize that the benefit will be a better economic environment for the city as a whole."
During the Fall 2010 semester, Brown and Rhode Island School of Design students have been monitoring energy usage at the Watson building on Brown's campus, compiling basic statistics about the building, interviewing occupants about energy use, monitoring the building's energy consumption and correlating it with weather data. Next semester, teams of students will apply what they've learned to the 70 Ship St. building, and efforts to assess other buildings around the district will grow from there.
"What this does is set up the baseline data set," Moran said. "It allows us to say we are here, but we want to be get there."
This program to Green the Knowledge District is just the initial program for OSCAR. The consortium plans additional programs, which will roll out throughout 2011 and beyond.
OSCAR is the Ocean State Consortium of Advanced Resources. Using the state's unique physical, natural, and human resources, public and private partners come together in Rhode Island to solve core problems that no one could tackle alone. There are more than 40 organizations involved in OSCAR including: AICU Rhode Island, AS220, Brown University, Greater Providence Chamber Of Commerce, Helicos BioSciences, IBM Corp., Johnston and Wales, Lifespan, OSHEAN, Providence Mayor's Office, Rhode Island Quality Institute, The Rhode Island Foundation, Rhode Island Lieutenant Governor's Office, Rhode Island School of Design, RIEDC, Slater Technology Fund, Social Venture Partners Rhode Island, STAC, Thought Cap, University of Rhode Island, and Women and Infants Hospital. More information is available at www.oscarri.org.
Source: Ocean State Consortium of Advanced Resources (OSCAR)
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