Cranes and excavators are taking position behind the parking lot of the Faculty of Engineering: Construction works for the Institute for Machine-Brain Interfacing Technology (IMBIT) are being carried out since a couple of weeks. With the facility the University of Freiburg will consolidate its leading role in the area of Neurotechnology. The federal state government had granted construction approval in April this year. Comprising 3100 square meters of space for offices and laboratories the building costs EUR 37,5M and shall be completed until the end of 2019. Expenses will be proportionately covered by the federal government, the federal state government and the university. It provides a new work place for more than 100 scientists. „The University of Freiburg wants to enhance its profile in the field of natural and technical sciences. We are pleased to be able to make a particularly sustainable contribution to that“, says Professor Wolfram Burgard, speaker of cluster of excellence BrainLinks-BrainTools, who submitted the proposal for the new research facility at the Wissenschaftsrat. Substantively, the building will allow further development of the cluster’s research program.
(The construction site at the Faculty of Engineering / Freiburg Airport)
The research focus Machine-Brain Interfacing Technology aims at the development of neurotechnological applications for patients with so far insufficiently treatable brain and nerve disorders. This, for example, could be robotic assistants which users can control mentally. Expert knowledge from different fields is needed for this purpose: Neurobiology and materials science lay the foundation, researchers from computer science and microsystems technology develop the instruments, and medical doctors apply them. Burgard gets excited: „As one of the very few locations we are lucky to having been able to unite the whole expertise of a university into a well-rehearsed team.“
To live up to the scientists’ ambitious goal and in order to weave their different backgrounds into a meaningful whole, the center includes a highly specialized infrastructure: Alongside laboratories with, to some extent, very large equipment, there will be a robot hall and a server farm, for instance. The IMBIT is in for stabilization of multidisciplinarity as well and ought to be a place of exchange between scientists and audiences from outside academia: „Interdisciplinary cooperation is only possible by exchange on a very regular basis. To involve the public is also an important concern with such a trendsetting topic“, Burgard comments the approach. Therefore an assembly room to enable different participative formats is planned.
The University of Freiburg expects to maintain its position in the world’s top segment of research locations for medical technology and to permanently anchor the research work of the cluster BrainLinks-BrainTools in Freiburg. Not only the scientific program is characterized by sustainability: The energy supply of the new building will come from the University Medical Center’s heating network, and with its state-of-the-art installation engineering it has optimal requirements to be an energy-efficient facility.