Senate President Donald E. Williams Jr., joined by state lawmakers, industry leaders, and University officials, on Friday announced plans to build a multi-million dollar technology park on the University of Connecticut campus.
The landmark proposal includes $18 million in state bond funding for the design, site development, and infrastructure improvements necessary to create the tech-park. Also included in the plan is $2.5 million to create the Innovation Partners Eminent Faculty Program, which is designed to attract some the nation’s top scholars and scientists, and to leverage millions of dollars in federal and private investment.
The tech-park will eventually include multiple buildings – many of which could be privately funded – and will house large, flexible-use laboratories containing specialized equipment for collaborative research. The complex, to be located in the North Campus, will provide space for business incubators and individual companies.
“The potential for Connecticut is outstanding. The state’s location – between Boston and New York – is a significant asset,” said Williams (D-Brooklyn). “A research and technology center in Storrs will provide companies with easy access to world-class metropolitan areas, specialized R&D equipment, and a highly skilled workforce. The net outcome will be more private sector jobs for Connecticut, increased research and development, and greater opportunities for students and faculty.”
In making the announcement, Williams was joined by State Rep. Greg Haddad (D-Mansfield); Sen. Beth Bye (D-West Hartford), Co-chair of the Higher Education and Employment Advancement Committee; Sen. Gary D. LeBeau (D-East Hartford), Co-chair of the Commerce Committee; Catherine Smith, Commissioner of the Department of Economic and Community Development; Mike Brown, Vice President of Government Affairs at UTC Power; and Howard Orr, President of KTI Inc. of East Windsor; as well as University President Philip Austin, and Mun Y. Choi, Dean of Engineering.
Williams made the announcement at Gampel Pavilion, where hundreds of student-scientists, industry representatives, and engineering faculty were attending UConn’s annual Senior Design Demonstration Day.
“Connecticut is a state whose economic progress, indeed whose economic survival, depends on knowledge and innovation and very advanced technology,” President Austin said. “When the state succeeds in those realms it yields benefits almost beyond measure and keeps us at or near the top of the nation in terms of economic well-being. When we lag behind, we face problems that virtually defy solution. This is a wonderful, promising initiative, and I’m proud but not surprised that Senator Williams has looked to us as the place where it can come to fruition.”
Research and technology parks are facilities, or clusters of facilities, that drive technology-led economic development by creating partnerships between research universities and industry. The parks are typically located adjacent to research universities, and support the growth of existing companies by offering proximity and access to advanced technology, faculty expertise, and engaged students.
“With visionary leadership and support from Senator Williams, UConn will continue to develop industry-university partnerships that will benefit Connecticut by producing high-tech jobs and technology commercialization,” Choi said.
The collaborations that result from these partnerships often lead to innovations and discoveries with commercial applications, create new jobs, and generate federal and industry research grants. A 2007 study of technology parks in the United States and Canada by the Battelle Memorial Institute estimated that the typical tech park generates 750 jobs. Many states, such as North Carolina, Illinois, and Indiana have built tech-parks that attracted hundreds of companies and thousands of jobs.
“People who live in Eastern Connecticut have long understood the importance of UConn to our local economy,” said Rep. Haddad, who served on the Mansfield Town Council for 11 years as deputy mayor. “I’m proud to stand here today, as a supporter of this initiative that has the potential to fuel an economic renaissance across the region. Seen to its completion, a technology park, anchored by an Innovation Partnership building has the potential to add hundreds of jobs for eastern Connecticut residents and to attract research divisions from some of the largest and most innovative companies in the world.”
Sen. LeBeau said: “This is another piece of the puzzle in terms of our ongoing efforts to create truly innovative businesses here in Connecticut. It should be clear to everybody that’s what we have to do. And we are well-positioned to do that here in Connecticut.”
“Just this morning I attended a manufacturing forum at Asnuntuck Community College that addressed the same issue: how do we best transfer our collegiate knowledge from the classroom to the shop room floor?” said Sen. Bye. “The link between higher education and employment advancement has never been made clearer than in this national recession, and today’s announcement provides us with a clear path for job growth right here in Connecticut.”
Mike Brown said the natural affinity between universities and industry is perhaps most profound for engineering programs, the training ground of the nation’s producers and knowledge workers.
“Engineers are vital partners in meeting challenges such as the need for clean drinking water, better transportation systems, smart buildings and sources of affordable and renewable energy,” said Brown. “Engineers are the engine that drives American industry and our economic competitiveness. UTC has enjoyed a long and rewarding relationship with the UConn School of Engineering. For decades, we have hired engineering graduates to work within our business units. It’s safe to say they have been instrumental in helping our company design and build some of the world’s most innovative products.”
Howard Orr of KTI said, “Today’s announcement is welcome news for KTI. It will give us access to unique equipment within the Innovation Partnership Building that we simply can’t afford on our own. These will include state-of-the-art lithography and thin film deposition equipment, surface analysis tools, and advanced microscopy for materials processing and analysis. We’ll be able to work closely with UConn researchers and students, and to exchange ideas with other manufacturers to improve our products. This center will contribute to our bottom line, provide a distinct learning core where students can gain practical skills, and help Connecticut strengthen its critical manufacturing sector for the challenges that lie ahead.”