University Research Parks Pay Their Way and More
“The fact that we have this facility here and actively encourage and promote the faculty to develop and commercialize technologies has helped recruit the next generation of researchers,” said Hyer.
“The old mold was teach, research and publish. The new generation wants to do those things, but they also want to put their research to work in the marketplace to benefit people.”
MERGING THE CORPORATE AND ACADEMIC WORLDS
The Nebraska Innovation Campus is up and running just a few years after the university, the city, the state and private companies came together to fix a problem. Nebraska was a perennial exporter of highly educated young people. Opportunities for employment were needed in the state, and the 250-acre state fairgrounds had become available. Situated between UNL’s two campuses, it was the perfect site to not only connect them, but also the corporate and academic worlds.
“As a university, we had a very strong academic and research program that aligned well with the agricultural strengths of the state,” said Prem Paul, vice chancellor for research and economic development, UNL. “While we were very good at conducting basic and applied research and passing it on to farmers and constituents, we hadn’t taken the information and created businesses with it. We needed to create an environment that would translate research power into new business, add value to our agricultural products, grow the economy and provide opportunities for our young people to stay in Nebraska.”
Paul is confident the NIC will meet the challenge. The first phase of construction is underway with a 360,000-square foot office, laboratory and greenhouse. It represents an $80 million investment by the state, private investors and the developer and $10.7 million in tax increment financing from the city of Lincoln. Con Agra and the Robert B. Daugherty Water for Food Institute will be early tenants. Paul knows success won’t happen overnight. It will take time as it did at Purdue, Wisconsin and the other older research parks UNL hopes to emulate.
“Our vision will be translated into reality over the next 25 years,” said Paul. “We’ve created a lot of excitement. Now we have to remind ourselves it will take time.”