The Engineering & Computer Science Innovation Hub is being designed and developed as a nexus for education, research, and industry collaboration, with the goal of creating a continuous cycle of innovation and knowledge exchange. By providing an environment that fosters collaboration, hands-on learning, and research excellence, the hub will position ECS to stay agile in response to emerging industry trends and technologies, ensuring our graduates will be successful and ECS faculty and industry partners can keep making impactful contributions.
Feasibility planning is complete, and the next phase is design-build plans. Space matters to learning, and the ongoing focus is on ensuring that the designated spaces align with faculty expertise, enriching students’ experiences.
“We’re looking to create an ‘innovation ecosystem’ that evolves to keep up with technology and to meet changing needs,” says Susan Barua, dean of ECS. “Kiran George, serving as our first Innovation Fellow, is helping the college leadership more clearly define what this ecosystem needs to be. He is conducting in-depth research on best practices in engineering and computer science within innovation ecosystems and visiting some of those other ecosystems, curating important information about what’s being done and how, especially when it comes to student-centric initiatives.”
“I will contribute to space planning and design, ensuring alignment with the goals of fostering innovation and collaboration,” says George, professor and vice chair of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. “My role also encompasses making recommendations for collaborative enhancements within ECS and with other colleges, initially concentrating on partnerships connecting ECS to the entrepreneurship/start-up ecosystem in the College of Business & Economics. By engaging with students, I aim to explore their preferences and requirements across dimensions like innovation, social impact, emerging technologies, workforce preparedness, and ideal learning environments.”
George says he will regularly collaborate with the dean, departmental chairs, and industry leaders to share best practices that will enhance innovations in curriculum, student success, and workforce preparedness, aligning these aspects with the broader vision of the innovation ecosystem.
Collaborative Alignment Essential for Impactful Innovation
The Innovation Hub will provide students with access to state-of-the-art facilities and hands-on learning opportunities, preparing them for dynamic careers in engineering and computer science. Collaborative projects and interdisciplinary activities within the hub will expose students to cutting-edge technologies, fostering adaptability and innovation and equipping them to meet the evolving demands of the workforce.
For faculty and industry collaborators, the Innovation Hub provides an exclusive setting for impactful research and collaboration.
“Within the hub, research clusters will empower faculty to participate in genuinely interdisciplinary projects, tackling intricate challenges and making strides in technological advancements. The cooperative atmosphere will cultivate connections between faculty and industry specialists, fostering the exchange of ideas and insights,” George says. “This involvement with real-world industry challenges guarantees that the research conducted in the hub is not just significant but also closely aligned with the current needs of the industry.”
As Innovation Fellow, George says he is prepared to translate the dean’s vision for the innovation ecosystem into reality through strategic initiatives.
“Our approach to creating the ECS Innovation Ecosystem starts with ideation and consultation among internal and external audiences, then we’ll focus on aligning current offerings related to innovation so our students can more easily and intentionally navigate and participate in the ecosystem. Finally, we’ll identify some key new offerings and launch some really exciting programs that will change the ECS students’ experience and integrate into broader innovation structures on our campus and in Orange County.”
“Within this ecosystem, ideas undergo a process of generation, development, and implementation, with a central focus on propelling progress, addressing challenges, and generating tangible value.”
Kiran George, professor and vice chair of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering
George says that, in his opinion, an innovation ecosystem is a vibrant and interconnected network comprising individuals, organizations, and resources collaborating to nurture innovation and creativity.
“It entails establishing a supportive student-centered framework focused on access, navigation, and resourcing that elevates the value of our degrees, therefore expanding social mobility to all our students. Within this ecosystem, ideas undergo a process of generation, development, and implementation, with a central focus on propelling progress, addressing challenges, and generating tangible value.”
“What we are looking at is a multiyear effort to bring communities of students into the innovation economy. Investments from our alumni, industry, and foundations will be critical to accelerating the rate of growth, allow us to build intentional structures that maximize learning and assessment, and create new paths of educational opportunity for thousands of students,” says Michael Karg, senior executive director of Development. “Our students are fantastic; they are driven and have a desire to creatively apply the rigorous technical education they are receiving to help their communities. Together, with our faculty, industry partners, and investors, we can make progress towards inclusive innovation one student at a time.”
An Innovation Fellow Well-Equipped for the Challenge
With a robust background in engineering research and teaching, George brings to the role a deep understanding of the local high-tech industry and a steadfast commitment to fostering diversity at CSUF. He has contributed a substantial body of scholarship, including more than 150 peer-reviewed technical articles and reports, and has received numerous awards and grants, most notably the National Science Foundation CAREER award, Outstanding Professor award, and the L. Donald Shields Excellence in Scholarship and Creativity Award. George has served as the investigator on more than 15 extramural grants and industry-sponsored projects, totaling $4.2 million from the NSF, various foundations, and local industry.
Throughout his 16-year tenure at Cal State Fullerton, George’s focus has been on addressing real-world challenges in engineering, particularly in areas like assistive technology, neuroadaptive systems, and cyber-physical systems.
His role in spearheading the NSF-funded Achieving Competitive Excellence (ACE) program underscores his commitment to providing support for economically disadvantaged and underrepresented students. As a teacher-scholar, he actively engages students in cutting-edge biomedical and assistive technology research, and he currently supervises and guides more than 200 undergraduates and graduates.
George’s commitment to increasing diversity in STEM is evident, as well as in his role as a faculty advisor to more than 375 students on their capstone senior design projects. As program coordinator of the Computer Engineering Program, he has contributed to the implementation of strategic course developments and innovative degree programs like the four-year B.S./M.S. program, as well as to its national recognitions for success. ECS’s computer engineering degree program is currently ranked seventh nationwide among non-Ph.D.-granting institutions.
“What excites me the most about the Innovation Hub is its transformative prospect,” George says. “Its potential impact extends to the broader community through outreach, collaboration, and industry engagement, which will enhance our institution’s connection with its surroundings. Our industry partners eagerly anticipate the hub as a well-equipped center for workforce development, fostering collaboration on projects, internships, and research initiatives to meet the demands for skilled professionals. Plus, by engaging K-12 students and the wider community in STEM activities, the Innovation Hub will serve as an inspirational space, potentially sparking interest in STEM careers and contributing to the promotion of STEM education initiatives.”