Florida's university system awarded $10 million in grants Monday to boost research and innovation, with nearly a quarter of the money going to the University of Florida.
The University of South Florida will receive nine grants totaling $1.48 million, the second most in the state.
Florida State University will get $1.3 million and the University of Central Florida will receive $1.28 million.
The program, known as the New Florida Initiative, aims to broaden the state's economy beyond agriculture and tourism into engineering, health and science.
"This is a wonderful time, even in a recession, to stake out a claim that an innovation-based, knowledge-based economy is the way to build a Florida for the future," university system chancellor Frank Brogan said.
The Florida Board of Governors, which oversees the state's 11 public universities, requested $100 million for the initiative, but the Legislature allocated $12 million.
In October, the Board of Governors awarded $2 million to 21 university projects with commercial possibilities. They ranged from cultivating a new kind of cultured pearl to developing anti-cancer drugs to creating a new electrochemical fuel cell.
Of the $10 million awarded Monday, $6.5 million will go to research grants in areas such as aerospace, aging, biomedical engineering, climate change, coastal watersheds and fighting disease.
Some will support collaborations. UF, FSU and USF, for example, will team up to expand the state's broadband and super-computing capabilities. FSU and USF will work together to size up Florida's susceptibility to natural disasters.
USF's research grants include $250,000 for the next generation of smart sensors that can monitor a variety of changes to their environments, $200,000 for medical education, $200,000 for disease research and $100,000 to assess threats to Florida from hurricanes, storm surges, floods and droughts.
The remaining $3.5 million will be used to help universities recruit and retain scholars in targeted areas. Of that, USF stands to receive a total of $625,000 for four positions in engineering, geology, health and marine science.
In 2011, the Board of Governors plans to seek $150 million more for the initiative.
"There are two ways to get through this recession," Brogan said. "One is to crawl through it on your hands and knees, and hope you come out the other end."
The other, he said, is to re-organize universities, retool the economy and "slingshot out."