The University of Connecticut announced today the opening of a data science technology incubator in Stamford, the state’s fastest growing city. The 5,685 square-foot facility at 9 West Broad Street adds to UConn’s existing Technology Incubation Program (TIP) locations on the main campus in Storrs and at UConn Health in Farmington.
UConn TIP is the largest and most active incubator in the state and has seen remarkable growth over the past several years. In 2020, incubated companies raised nearly $463 million and have been responsible for the creation of 208 high-paying jobs.
“We are focused on attracting, supporting, and growing early- to mid-stage startup companies in any data science related field, through the creation of a robust entrepreneurial ecosystem connected to the world-class research capabilities at UConn,” says Radenka Maric, UConn’s vice president for research, innovation and entrepreneurship. “Thanks to the vibrancy of the business community in Stamford and UConn’s strengths in data science and innovation, we’re confident that TIP Stamford will become an engine for new company and job creation.”
Just as at TIP’s other locations, the Stamford-based startups who are accepted into the incubator have access to offices and shared work areas, UConn’s research infrastructure, faculty experts, student talent, business mentoring, networking, and other benefits that help high potential companies grow.
Five startups will be joining TIP Stamford as it opens its doors, with plenty of COVID-19 safety regulations in place to keep everyone safe. Companies accepted into TIP at any location can be based on UConn technology, or are external ventures that could benefit from access to UConn’s research enterprise.
ACW Analytics, a startup based on the research of UConn engineers Emmanouil Anagnostou, Peter Watson, and Diego Cerrai, uses advanced modeling to predict the impact of extreme weather on critical infrastructure such as power utilities. As climate change and severe weather take an increasing toll, ACW Analytics seeks to provide data-driven insights to their customers that can help society at large.
The team chose to locate their business in Stamford because they felt they could benefit from the entrepreneurial ecosystem and data science talent in the greater New York area, says Vijay Jayachandran, chief executive officer of ACW Analytics.
By being located midway between Hartford and New York, they will have convenient access to customers in the insurance, risk, and finance sectors where they intend to pursue business opportunities, he explains.
They also hope to give back to the area and help Stamford’s continued growth in the data science sector, says Jayachandran.
“As our company gains market traction, we expect to create new jobs, participate in thought leadership, and enrich the entrepreneurial community in the region. We hope to be part of something bigger, by attracting new talent to Connecticut and making it a destination of choice in the post-COVID world,” he says.
Just the Beginning
The new data science incubator is the first phase of a three-part initiative to expand UConn’s existing Stamford-based activities. The next phases will include a cluster hire of five junior faculty with expertise in data science to fuel innovation and an experiential learning co-op led by the Peter J. Werth Institute for Entrepreneurship & Innovation. As part of the co-op, students will spend an intensive “entrepreneurial year” in Stamford helping companies tackle real-world problems with data science solutions.
UConn’s continued growth in this region of the state is exciting for faculty, students, and businesses in greater Stamford, says John A. Elliott, dean of the School of Business. He expects the initiative to assist companies with data and technology advancement, workforce development, startup incubation, and more.
“We’ve always had a strong partnership with Stamford businesses and recognized the city as a special place and home to many high-profile companies. Those companies tell us they need more talented, smart, capable people,’’ he says. “As an academic institution we are seeking to help fill that opportunity.’’
Hiring five research faculty to conduct data analytics research will assist in that effort and enhance the already robust undergraduate and graduate business programs in that specialty, says Elliot.
The initiative complements UConn and the School of Business’ commitment to Stamford, which in recent years, has included growth in student enrollment, the addition of faculty, the creation of residential housing, and the addition of new business-degree programs.
David Bergman, associate professor of operations and information management, and Evan Rawley, professor of management, are leading the search for the assistant research professors of business, who will have a data science research background. Faculty from the College of Liberal Arts and the Schools of Engineering and Fine Arts will round out the cluster hire.
The program is designed so that the faculty will have to build self-sufficient research programs by the end of the third year, so that they no longer require university funding.
“The program has been designed to attract people with an entrepreneurial spirit,” Bergman says. “We are seeking go-getters who will pursue the many opportunities that are available in Stamford and integrate themselves in the business community within the city.’’
Bergman says he believes the program will create a new synergy among experts from different professional backgrounds that will be beneficial to all.
Moving the Needle in Stamford
Funding for TIP Stamford and the larger Stamford Data Science Initiative, comes from both the University and a $2.1 million grant from StamfordNext via CTNext, Connecticut’s go-to resource for entrepreneurial support.
StamfordNext fosters innovation through the city’s people, technology, and expertise. According to the group’s mission statement, StamfordNext works to create catalytic economic growth in the city, and supports and funds projects that are connecting the dots to create innovation in the community.
“StamfordNext believes in the growth of the data science field. We are excited about the impact TIP will have on existing companies in the area and the potential of fulfilling their data science needs. We also anticipate TIP will inspire new entrepreneurial data science opportunities in the city of Stamford,” says Wesley Bemus, executive director of StamfordNext.
UConn’s growth in Stamford could be a game changer for the University and the state, according to Dan Schwartz, executive director of strategic analytics and initiatives in UConn’s Office of the Vice President for Research. Schwartz, who is also an associate professor of physiology and neurobiology and director of UConn’s Center for Open Research Resources and Equipment (COR2E) is responsible for developing the proposal to CTNext and is at the helm of the three-part initiative.
“Despite its high density of corporations, the Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk area is missing an essential component for sustained growth – a major research university,” says Schwartz. “UConn can be that engine alongside our partners and the business community, fueling future economic growth in data science and beyond.”