CITRIS celebrates 20 years of creating new technologies and solutions to benefit society. The University of California research center has forged public and private partnerships to shape the future of tech.
December 3, 2020 (Berkeley, California) –This month marks 20 years since the founding of the Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society (CITRIS) and the Banatao Institute. Since 2000, CITRIS and its community of University of California researchers and industry partners have developed and delivered information technology solutions to address society’s most pressing challenges.
“CITRIS, at its core, is a collective effort focused on the pursuit of discovery—scientific and technical discovery, but with a view of the real-world effects of these technologies on our daily lives,” said Costas Spanos, Director of CITRIS, and the Andrew S. Grove Distinguished Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences at UC Berkeley.
On December 4, 2000, Governor Gray Davis announced the launch of four visionary Institutes for Science and Innovation (ISIs), including CITRIS. The multicampus institutes share a vital mission: to improve the lives of Californians by tackling large-scale societal problems through interdisciplinary research and new market applications.
Since its founding, CITRIS has been headquartered at UC Berkeley with partner campuses at Davis (including Davis Health), Merced, and Santa Cruz. Together faculty, postdocs, students, clinicians, and research staff have been working to anticipate and meet society’s technological needs. In 2016, the Banatao Institute was added to CITRIS’s name across all four campuses, in recognition of foundational donors Dado and Maria Banatao.
“From its founding, CITRIS’s mission has been to develop and apply information technology to create innovative solutions to some of today’s greatest challenges, be they natural, economic, or societal,” said Randy Katz, Vice Chancellor for Research and first Interim Director of CITRIS at UC Berkeley. “The Institute has a justifiably proud two-decade-long track record of high impact research, and I look forward to its innovations for many years to come.”
Innovation Ecosystem at CITRIS
To create a vital hub for information technology research and to participate in the Silicon Valley entrepreneurial ecosystem, CITRIS facilitates cross-campus collaboration through its CITRIS Seed Funding program, supports UC startups through the CITRIS Foundry, and develops industry partnerships with Siemens, Komatsu, Microsoft, Lam Research and more.
Sutardja Dai Hall on the UC Berkeley campus was built to house CITRIS and opened in 2009. Sutardja Dai Hall offers researchers access to world-class facilities, including the Berkeley Marvell Nanofabrication Laboratory at CITRIS, which also opened in 2009. The NanoLab offers 15,000 square feet of Class 100/1000 cleanroom for use by more than 600 researchers, along with industry leaders such as Hewlett Packard, Applied Materials, and Intel. For more than a decade, NanoLab researchers have pioneered new technologies including testing wireless sensors known as Smart Dust; demonstrating that silicon microrobots can walk, jump, and fly; and inventing optoelectronic tweezers, a development that led to the formation of Berkeley Lights.
The CITRIS Invention Lab was the first makerspace on the Berkeley campus when it opened in 2012. The Invention Lab has been home to creators who experiment with 3D printing and rapid prototyping to build low-cost, customizable prosthetics, such as Sophie’s Hand, and researchers who are harnessing novel tech to combat Alzheimer’s disease with light.
The CITRIS Foundry, launched in 2013, has helped University of California startups develop products using technologies like gene editing, artificial intelligence, and sensor networks. This ecosystem has supported 100 companies, including Storx Technologies to monitor fetal health, the nanomaterials company Correlia Biosystems, and many more.
Through a competitive seed funding program, CITRIS and the Banatao Institute have catalyzed promising new technology projects. Since 2008, CITRIS Seed Funding has advanced 222 projects led by more than 460 researchers from all CITRIS campuses, resulting in extramural funding up to four times the initial support via public, private, and philanthropic sources.
Fostering the Future of Information Technology
In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, CITRIS pivoted to launch three new health intervention programs in 2020. Moving swiftly to deploy funding, the CITRIS COVID-19 Response Seed Funding Program kicked off in May 2020, funding 31 projects focused on clinical care, contact tracing, testing, personal protective equipment, and more. All 31 projects launched and were reporting progress within three weeks of receiving awards. Additionally, the C3.ai Digital Transformation Institute at CITRIS pivoted its awards to fund scientists working to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
The CITRIS Health program has developed two telehealth initiatives this year: Lighthouse for Older Adults and ACTIVATE. Lighthouse will develop a national model for telehealth through digital literacy training and infrastructure support, while ACTIVATE is piloting a rural telehealth solution focused on at-risk populations in California’s Central Valley.
Along with this pandemic-focused health programming, CITRIS continues advancing faculty and student research and entrepreneurship through several other initiatives. Other CITRIS programming and research efforts include expanding Aviation and UAV Facilities, which help ensure regulatory compliance for unmanned aerial systems and facilitates a Drone Training Academy for high school students; Tech for Social Good, a student discovery program that empowers students to develop hardware, software, events, or public programs; and the Women in Tech Initiative, which supports data-driven diversity research and engages corporate partners to help create a more equitable and inclusive workforce. Launched in 2018, the CITRIS Policy Lab supports interdisciplinary research in key areas, including health, inclusive AI, and environmental sustainability. Last year, Spanos and the CITRIS Policy Lab team traveled to the U.S. capitol to help inform AI regulation and policy.
“COVID-19 has demonstrated the importance of our research community’s work and ability to respond quickly,” said Camille Crittenden, Executive Director of CITRIS and the Banatao Institute. “This year has sped up so many technological advances from the increased use of robotics to completely remote workforces. It’s more critical than ever to ensure these changes are generating social and economic benefits for everyone.”
About the Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society (CITRIS) and the Banatao Institute
The Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society (CITRIS) and the Banatao Institute drive interdisciplinary innovation for social good with faculty researchers and students from four University of California campuses – Berkeley, Davis, Merced, and Santa Cruz – along with public and private partners.
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Kat Madrigal Cheng
Interim Communications Director, CITRIS