Updated on Aug. 30, 2011.
Plans for a world-class technology park at UConn received a major boost Friday when the State Bond Commission authorized the release of $18 million in bonding to cover the project’s initial design and development costs.
The Tech Park is expected to generate hundreds of new jobs in Connecticut, encourage new business growth, and leverage millions of dollars in federal and private research funding.
During a visit to Storrs last Thursday, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said the park will serve as a cornerstone for a new Connecticut ‘research triangle’ similar to those finding success in other states.
“This is an exciting endeavor for UConn – there’s no doubt about it,” said Malloy. “But it’s also exciting for our state. We are not only building a technology park in Storrs, but we’re linking the work that will be done there to the Health Center in Farmington, and to the work that’s being done in New Haven and elsewhere across the state – Connecticut’s own research triangle. This is a concept that has worked well in other states, and there’s no reason why Connecticut – with top talent, top universities, and an entrepreneurial spirit and drive – can’t capitalize on new ideas.”
Malloy, Senate President Pro Tempore Donald E. Williams Jr. (D-Brooklyn), UConn President Susan Herbst, and a host of other legislative and University leaders gathered at the University Thursday afternoon to formally sign Public Act 11-57 calling for creation of the Tech Park, and to announce the Bond Commission’s anticipated approval of the funding.
Williams said the Tech Park will be an important engine for job creation, and a critical component in Connecticut’s economic recovery plan.
“When it comes to net job growth over the last two decades, Connecticut has been treading water,” said Williams. “The creation of a research triangle is exactly the type of investment we need to create high-quality jobs and sustained economic growth. With the approval of startup funding for the project, we will take a significant step forward – and ensure that eastern Connecticut will play a critical role in the state’s economic revival.”
Earlier this year, Malloy announced plans for a new ‘Bioscience Connecticut’ initiative centered around the UConn Health Center in Farmington. The initiative is expected to secure the state’s position as a national leader in bioscience research and help jumpstart the economy by generating jobs and long-term growth. The proposal will allow the Health Center to increase its capabilities for bioscience research, expand its small business incubator facilities, add more scientists, and increase medical and dental school enrollment by 30 percent to meet future workforce needs.
“Building a technology park at UConn is an important next step that will help create jobs and promote Connecticut’s long-term economic growth,” said President Herbst. “We thank the Governor, Senator Williams, and the General Assembly for their bold leadership on this issue. UConn has a proud history of strong industry-university partnerships that support the state’s economy. Over the past 12 years, UConn has created 35 new companies, generated 226 patents, and recruited world-class faculty with expertise in key industrial areas. The Tech Park will build on this strong foundation, and foster innovations leading to even more discoveries and new products that will help Connecticut industry thrive.”
The technology park is planned for a 300-acre parcel off North Hillside Road in North Campus, behind the existing UConn Public Safety Complex and the University’s tennis courts. It is expected to be operational by 2015. Once built, the initial Tech Park anchor facility – known as the Innovation Partnership (IP) Building – will provide large, flexible-use laboratories to top academic researchers and industry scientists looking to advance technologies that lead to new product development and commercialization. Additional Tech Park buildings – many of which could be privately funded – are planned for future phases of the project.
The Tech Park’s laboratories will feature highly-specialized equipment not readily available to industry. The park is designed to encourage the development of startup companies, as world-class University researchers and scholars recruited through a new “Innovation Partners Eminent Faculty Program” work side-by-side with top industry scientists and business entrepreneurs to explore innovative ideas in manufacturing and advanced product development in such areas as aerospace, defense, biotechnology, energy, and the environment.
“The Tech Park’s success will be derived from the investment of industry partners who believe that the intellectual assets, physical assets, and cyber assets of the IP building will be instrumental in developing important breakthroughs,” said Mun Choi, dean of the School of Engineering. “These projects will demand a synergistic integration of the best computational and experimental capabilities in academia and industry.”
The extension of North Hillside Road to Route 44 in Storrs will allow the development of up to one million square feet of research, technology, and academic space, consistent with the University’s long-range Master Plan.
The UConn Tech Park will provide important incubation space for entrepreneurs with innovative ideas who would benefit from guidance by faculty experts in the field. UConn’s Office of Technology Commercialization will be involved in the different projects, advising researchers and industry representatives on the entrepreneurial value of their work and the opportunities that may exist to raise venture capital to bring the product to the commercial market.
A 2007 feasibility analysis for the park indicated that with new developments at the University occurring since UCONN 2000 – such as significant growth in research, and a mature system for technology transfer and commercialization – UConn was in a strong position to support a successful technology park in Storrs, says Rita Zangari, director of the Office of Technology Commercialization. It predicted job growth based on a combination of startup activity, industry partnerships with established firms, and new relationships with national research institutions. While clearly a long-term venture, the study indicated that the park would create up to 1,200 jobs in the first 10 years, and 2,800 jobs over 20 years, with payroll reaching a high of $416,000,000 in that timeframe, Zangari says.
The park will help companies and startups with limited resources.
“The IP building’s extensive instrumentation will provide companies with the ability to address their short-term manufacturing problems,” says Professor Harris Marcus, director of UConn’s Institute of Materials Science. “This is particularly true for smaller companies and startups, since they often do not have the necessary instrumentation and support staff necessary to address the short-term manufacturing difficulties that limit their opportunities for growth.”
While the School of Engineering and Institute of Materials Science will likely have major roles in the Tech Park, UConn officials view the development as a University-wide initiative that will potentially incorporate scholars and scientists from a wide array of academic disciplines such as chemistry, pharmacy, and physics.
The dean of the School of Pharmacy, Robert McCarthy, says scientists on his faculty are very interested in creating new University-industry partnerships and expanding existing ones.
“We hope that companies like Pfizer and Boehringer Ingelheim will be interested in doing collaborative research with us, and with the new Tech Park they’ll be able to locate next to campus and work closely with our faculty,” McCarthy said.
Jeremy Teitelbaum, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, says researchers in CLAS are already working with industry partners to advance science in their different disciplines.
“Breakthroughs in technology flow from collaboration among scientists, engineers, and industry, who, working together, come to understand natural processes and find ways to apply this insight in practical ways,” Teitelbaum says. “Basic scientists in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences are active in many such collaborations. They are seeking dramatic progress in the diagnosis of disease; new and efficient ways of sampling contaminants in water; materials that can withstand extreme conditions or promote important chemical reactions; and ways to generate fuel from sunlight. By creating a dedicated site for such collaboration, equipped with the latest instruments, the new Technology Park will dramatically accelerate the path from laboratory insights at UConn to new industries here in Connecticut.”