The University of Alabama is set to begin three years of work to build a new, state-of-the-art computing center expected to cost almost $100 million.

The UA System's Board of Trustees have approved the Stage 1 scope and budget for a 40,000-square-foot High Performance Computing and Data Center, UA announced Tuesday. They expect the new space will open on the eastern edge of the campus in Tuscaloosa in 2026.

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The computing system they build for the center will be the fastest in Alabama, according to UA, and is on par with other research institutions, which will be another arrow in the school's quiver for recruiting elite students, faculty and staff. It could also help the Capstone land industrial, governmental and college-to-college partnerships.

Almost all of the $96 million cost to build the Center will be covered by a $44.5 million disbursement from the United States Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology and a $46 million supplemental appropriation from the state’s Education Trust Fund, approved by the Alabama Legislature and Governor Kay Ivey earlier this year.

“We are grateful to Sen. (Katie) Britt and the Alabama Legislature for their support of this project, which is critical to the UA System’s longstanding priority of fostering a knowledge-based economy in Tuscaloosa and across the state,” said UA System Chancellor Finis St. John IV.

“This funding will greatly enhance UA’s ability to make scientific and engineering advances that support critical work in water security, as well as research in a variety of areas of water related science,” said UA President Stuart Bell. “Not only will it strengthen collaboration across the UA System and between our students and key players in the growing water industry and other scientific research areas, but it will also develop the technical skills that our students can then apply in valuable careers that will support new industry opportunities in our state.”

Britt said UA's sharp focus on hydrological research and the proximity of NOAA’s National Water Center and the in-progress U.S. Geological Survey Hydrologic Instrumentation Facility made the funding easy to allot.

“The hydrological research conducted at The University of Alabama is critical to our country’s national security and future,” Britt said. “This targeted, strategic federal investment will enable researchers across the University of Alabama System to continue to make groundbreaking discoveries and contributions to our state and nation.”

The super-powerful computers will be an advantage in the age of artificial intelligence and machine learning, said Dr. Allen Parrish, interim vice president for research and economic development.

“The High Performance Computing and Data Center touches every discipline on campus and is an opportunity to incorporate technology in the University’s entire fabric to engage and prepare students for their careers,” he said. “This center will be a driver for developing a highly skilled workforce that will spur economic development for the 21st century in Alabama.”

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