When companies need traction, universities often provide the best proving grounds, test tracks and launch pads. Here’s a quick circuit through new projects announced in recent weeks.
In Orlando, the University of Central Florida announced it will partner with Osceola County and the Florida High Tech Corridor Council to establish the Florida Advanced Manufacturing Research Center, focused on growing the world’s first industry-led smart sensor consortium. The center will be built on 20 acres owned by Osceola County near the intersection of U.S. 192 and Florida’s Turnpike, across U.S. 192 from Osceola Heritage Park.
The Osceola County Commission on Monday evening approved a memorandum of understanding with UCF and the Florida High Tech Corridor Council. Osceola County committed to investing $61 million for design, construction and equipment costs associated with the 100,000-sq.-ft. center. UCF will lease the building for $1 a year for 30 years and will operate the center.
UCF is set to provide $10 million – from non-state and non-tuition sources – to help design and build the center and for start-up costs, as well as an additional $7 million for focused faculty hires.
The Florida High Tech Corridor Council will contribute $1 million initially. The council also will expand the scope of its signature Matching Grants Research Program at UCF, the University of South Florida and the University of Florida to include Sensor-Driven Advanced Manufacturing. Up to $5 million of matching funds will be available for research activities and the operation of a consortium.
“This center holds great potential for becoming another economic game changer for our entire region — and the timing for such an endeavor could hardly be better,” said UCF President John C. Hitt earlier this week. Applications range across a number of industry sectors, including disease treatment. UCF researchers have developed sensors capable of a range of applications — from detecting hydrogen and specific chemicals in the air to reading oxygen in the blood — and are also creating the materials that will enable sensors to be integrated into ever-smaller computer chips.
“We’ve asked ourselves for years what comes next after Medical City and it’s this infrastructure project,” said Rick Weddle, president and CEO of the Orlando Economic Development Commission — a partner in the new center — and current president of the International Association of Science Parks and Areas of Innovation (IASP). “This is how the communities of the future are being built and this is what technology-led economic development is all about.”
On June 16, Rutgers University broke ground on the new Chemistry & Chemical Biology (CCB) Building, a laboratory facility that will offer a state-of-the-art environment for research and education. Designed by Flad Architects, the building features flexible labs, modern instructional space, and a layout that embraces the informal interaction and collaboration needs of a scientific community.
This signature science building will house new smart classrooms with cutting-edge technologies that work seamlessly with modern teaching methods. It will emphasize the importance of interdisciplinary research with many inviting common spaces for chance discussions, and a modular laboratory design that allows easy adaptation for ever-evolving research. Isolated instrumentation rooms are designed to accommodate the unique needs of specialized equipment.
“Demonstrating Rutgers' expressed commitment to environmental stewardship, the new building will also be highly sustainable,” said an announcement from the architects. “Due to the increased water, equipment, and ventilation requirements to operate research laboratories, these facilities can consume between five and 10 times as much energy as an average building. The CCB Building is designed with the goal of LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold certification from the U.S. Green Building Council, reducing energy consumption through several green design elements. Among these are maximizing use of natural daylight, installation of custom-designed exhaust system energy recovery units, and use of the most advanced air handling systems available, in addition to incorporation of steel, concrete, and other building materials made with a significant percentage of recycled content.
With construction expected to be complete in 2016, the CCB Building will become a new focal point on Rutgers' Busch Campus, welcoming the university population, corporate partners, and the wider community.
A biotech startup focused on low-cost treatments for infectious diseases and cancer patients and a marketing strategy firm have joined the community of early-stage companies at the Port business incubator at University City Science Center in Philadelphia, which celebrated its 50th anniversary last year.
Lenima Field Diagnostics LLC is developing a simple, portable, and low-cost test for diagnosing infectious diseases, such as Clostridium dificile, a bacterium that causes diarrhea and other intestinal problems. Developed in laboratories at Drexel University, Lenima’s research is based on a revolutionary sensor that detects molecules by the change in electrical charge that they cause when they bind to a thin polycrystalline surface. “Establishing space at the Science Center was a natural progression for us” says Dr. Wan Shih, Founder of Lenima Field Diagnostics. “We had been doing research related to PEPS at our Drexel University Laboratory for over 10 years. Now that we’ve been awarded Phase 1 STTR funding, it’s time to take the work we’re doing — and the company — to the next level, and we’re confident the Science Center is the place to make that happen.”
As the University City Science Center’s QED proof-of-concept program launches its seventh round, one of its newest academic partners, The Pennsylvania State University, has expanded its involvement from the Medical College at Hershey to include its main campus at University Park. An RFP seeking proposals to QED for technologies ripe for commercialization was issued by the Science Center to 21 participating institutions in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware on May 12.
Separately, University City Science Center’s annual report, released this week, noted that 67 companies from four countries competed for six spots in the Science Center’s new Digital Health Accelerator. Beginning this month, six health IT companies will receive up to $50,000 each, space in the Port, professional mentorship, and “warm introductions” to healthcare stakeholders in the Greater Philadelphia region.
“As the healthcare and IT sectors converge, digital health is rapidly becoming an area of opportunity for forward-thinking entrepreneurs. With its concentration of healthcare providers and a growing start-up sector, Greater Philadelphia is well positioned to become a leader in the development of the health IT sector,” says Science Center President & CEO Steve Tang. “Through programs like the DHA, the Science Center is a natural location for these new companies.” The Digital Health Accelerator is funded in part by the Pennsylvania Department of Community & Economic Development’s Discovered and Developed in PA program.
A major grant by Longfellow Real Estate Partners has created a unique community partnership in Durham that will open a local pipeline of future leaders in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
Longfellow — a Boston-based real estate firm with a significant office in Durham — awarded grants to the Duke University Talent Identification Program (Duke TIP) and to Durham Technical Community College. The City of Durham was also awarded funding by Longfellow through a grant to the Durham Chamber Legacy Foundation. The grants total $260,000. Each grant recipient will use its funds to provide academic resources and financial aid to promising Durham-area students who are pursuing STEM-related fields of study. Students in Grades 4 through college are expected to benefit from the grant.
Longfellow and Duke University are partnering to develop the Innovation District life sciences hub in downtown Durham. Longfellow also owns 180,000 sq. ft. in Research Triangle Park, recently renovated the Research Lab (a former Liggett & Myers building) and is nearing completion on the transformation of downtown Durham’s Carmichael Building from a tobacco warehouse to Class A laboratory and office space. In all, Longfellow’s investment in the Triangle amounts to around $125 million, with more planned.