Business leaders plan future of M&S

Published 7:53 pm Monday, December 28, 2009

One of the decade’s leading technologies has found a home in Suffolk and will continue to grow in importance throughout Hampton Roads, area leaders learned recently.

The Virginia Modeling, Analysis and Simulation Center at Old Dominion University and the Hampton Roads Partnership are joining forces to develop a strategic plan to see that the modeling and simulation industry reaches its full potential in Hampton Roads.

“Hampton Roads is the most important leader in the modeling and simulation industry,” 4th District Congressman Randy Forbes said in a video presentation to an audience of business leaders at the Modeling and Simulation Strategy 2020 Meeting Dec. 16.

“Our region is planting a flag in the ground to let the world know there’s no more knowledgeable, thriving hub of modeling and simulation anywhere.”

The vision for VMASC in 2020 is that the Hampton Roads communities will become an “international nexus,” where the most innovative technologies for complex problem solving are available for industrial, academic and government entities.

Modeling and simulation is an emerging technology, traditionally used by government and military agencies to create and test complex hypothetical situations and their potential solutions.

VMASC differentiates itself from other modeling and simulation operations by adopting a multi-disciplinary approach to modeling and simulation research and development.

“To help you understand better what multi-disciplinary modeling and simulation is, it’s not just a military thing,” said Dr. John Sokolowski, director of research and interim executive direct of VMASC. “It’s also supporting the medical and health care area, transportation. There are many, clear uses for modeling and simulation. We’re even working in the social science area.”

VMASC also concentrates on working with various city governments to help them understand the monetary benefits of modeling and simulation. One agency experiencing the direct effects of modeling and simulation is the Suffolk Police Department.

“Right now, we’re working with the Suffolk Police force to develop a simulation-based training capability for various scenarios they might find themselves in,” Sokolowski said. “With our program, instead of enacting them live with all the associated costs, they are able to enact the situations through simulation.”

According the Dana Dickens, president and CEO of the HRP, Hampton Roads is the best-organized area in the country to support businesses that are putting modeling and simulation research into reality.

One reason for that distinction is that ODU is the only university in the country to offer a complete modeling and simulation education. The university recently announced the creation of a Department of Modeling, Simulation and Visualization Engineering in its College of Engineering and Technology, which will help further promote the school as a hub for the research.

According to the Hampton Roads Modeling and Simulation 2020 plans, there is also a “strong base of research and commercial applications in defense, homeland security and medical modeling and simulation; stakeholders in government, academia and the private sector will expand the scope to include other emerging industries.” Game-based learning and transportation are two areas in which the technology is being applied.

The business benefits created by the new technology in the Hampton Roads area is significant. Modeling and simulation is a $640 million industry with more than 5,000 employees earning an average salary of $83,000 a year. Additionally, four Hampton Roads businesses were created by VMASC researchers and students, and local businesses also profit from the traffic the industry brings to the area.

“This is just a starting point,” according to the M&S 2020 plan. “Any individual or organization interested in supporting is welcoming and encouraged to participate, as this is truly a regional effort.”