Albuquerque, NM – October 3, 2013
UNM President Robert Frank, along with STC CEO Lisa Kuuttila and other UNM senior staff, recently met with ASU officials and staff at its innovation center, SkySong, to learn about ASU’s efforts to create a research and innovation district. To read more about the meeting, see Chloe Henson’s article from the Oct. 1st edition of DailyLobo.com, reprinted below.
Frank researches for Innovate ABQ
Models for new project found in Ariz., Fla.
Shortly before presenting Innovate ABQ to the University’s Board of Regents, UNM President Robert Frank traveled out of state to gather inspiration for the proposed business and research hub.
On Sept. 3, Frank took a day trip to Scottsdale, Ariz. to examine Arizona State University’s innovation center, SkySong.
Frank said he went on the trip because several University officials and he wanted to see other schools’ successful innovation centers.
“It’s part of our interest in looking at other universities that have really successful research districts, and Arizona State has one,” he said. “We’d already been previously to the University of Florida so we wanted to see another one, and theirs has been very successful.”
Frank and a committee of UNM staff visited the University of Florida’s research facility, Innovation Square, in January.
In an email, UNM Director of Communication Dianne Anderson said the trip cost the university less than $500.
“He and his Chief of Staff Dorothy (Duffy) Rodriguez flew out and back in one day, so the cost was two plane tickets and a parking fee,” she said. “I believe the exact total was $426. A couple of others went with him … but their cost was paid by their organizations.”
Frank said one important lesson he took away from the trip was that UNM would need to work on utilizing tax breaks to make Innovate ABQ attractive to prospective participants.
“We’re also recognizing that we need to exploit tax breaks,” he said. “The tax breaks are really critical to this, and understanding the tax breaks and how you get those and how you work with your local government to understand those is really important.”
Frank said he thought the city and county officials who also attended the trip are more informed about the collaboration necessary to construct a research facility.
“We had the mayor of Scottsdale, we saw some of the townspeople were there and we saw some of the importance of those collaborations,” he said. “That’s what we wanted them to get a sense of: how dynamic these relationships were and the importance of the ‘town-gown’ part of it.”
The trip also taught the group about the incubation aspect of innovation centers, Frank said.
“(ASU’s) is a very different model from the University of Florida’s,” he said. “Theirs is much more focused on an incubator kind of model as opposed to a ‘live, work, play’ model that the University of Florida has.”
According to the University of Florida Innovation Square website, “live, work, play” environments develop centers that focus on research, retail, restaurants, residential and hospitality spaces.
By comparison, business incubator models deal with already-established entrepreneurs with tangible business plans, and are much more formal.
Lisa Kuuttila, CEO and president of UNM’s Science and Technology Corporation, said ASU and Scottsdale involved students in their incubation model.
“We also learned things about their incubation program and got some ideas for how that has operated,” she said. “I think they got quite a bit of student involvement in their incubators … That’s something that was informative for us for some possible ways that we can provide more opportunity for student-led businesses.”
While incubators will play a role in Innovate ABQ, the planned innovation center will also focus on the ‘live, work, play’ model, Kuuttila said.
“Our project, Innovate ABQ, is intended to be truly a ‘live, work, play’ community,” she said. “But an incubator will be one of the important components of it.”
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