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IU makes plans to hatch more businesses: Incubator in Bloomington hopes to duplicate success of local Emerging Technologies Center

October 6, 2008

Ground should be broken late this month or in early November, with completion expected by summer.

Cost of the 40,000-square-foot facility-4,000 square feet smaller than the one here-is estimated in the $8 million to $10 million range.

While it may be a bit smaller in size, the scope is broader. The new incubator will promote both life sciences companies and information technology firms.

That goal differs from the mission of the existing IU Emerging Technologies Center on 10th Street, which draws heavily on the life sciences contributions from the nearby IU School of Medicine.

James Eifert, president of the Indiana Venture Center, likes the approach IU officials are taking with the new center.

"The important piece here is that it does provide an outlet for commercialization of a broader range," he said. "The one here in Indianapolis, although absolutely not ironclad life sciences, is very strongly focused in that direction."

The tenants in Bloomington should be no less inferior, either, particularly those whose discoveries come from research performed within the school's chemistry department. Former Eli Lilly and Co. exec Richard DiMarchi chairs the department and serves as chief science officer of Marcadia, a Carmelbased developer of diabetes therapies.

Capping a 22-year Lilly career, DiMarchi served as group vice president of biotechnology research labs from 1996 to 2003. In that role, he oversaw development of nine drugs and was co-inventor of the mealtime insulin Humalog.

"It's that type of research that is having more and more of an impact that is ripe for development here in Indiana," said Bill Stephan, IU vice president for engagement.

In addition, Robert Schnabel, the new dean of the university's School of Informatics, will be involved in furthering the development of IT research. Students and professors within the Kelley School of Business and Johnson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation also can provide assistance, Stephan said.

The Bloomington incubator will be on property the university owns at 10th Street and the State Road 45/46 bypass. Much of the project will be funded by interest generated from various grants the university has received.

Tony Armstrong, executive director of the tech center in Indianapolis, has been tapped to lead IU's latest effort as well.

"I'm spending more time down in Bloomington than I thought I would, which is great," he said. "It's exciting."

'Wet lab' space critical

Armstrong, appointed executive director in IU's Office of Engagement in February, assumed leadership of the Indianapolis tech center the following month from longtime director Mark Long. The move to replace Long stemmed from IU President Michael McRobbie's decision to centralize economic development functions with the goal of maximizing their impact, Stephan told IBJ at the time of Long's departure. McRobbie became president of IU in July 2007.

The idea is to coordinate everything IU has that might aid Indiana's progress and create a single, simple point of access for businesses.

The Web site www.innovate.indiana.eduis the first step in that direction. Armstrong's leadership of both incubators would be another.

IU already is affiliated with an existing incubator in Bloomington, but the lack of "wet lab space" makes it difficult to test chemicals, drugs and biological matter. The shortage of space is one of the factors driving the development of the new incubator.

The existing center is just northwest of the courthouse square and is on property formerly occupied by Showers Brothers Furniture Co., at one time one of the largest furniture makers in the nation.

Bloomington and IU applied with the state to make it and the surrounding area a certified technology park. The designation, granted by the state in 2005, allows the city to capture growth in payroll and sales taxes within the park and devote the money to infrastructure improvements. But IU did not line up developers for its portion of the park, and the surrounding area has seen less growth than anticipated.

The incubator, InVenture, sits next door to IU's site in a renovated Showers factory building that also houses City Hall. The incubator is nearly full and has graduated several companies. Many of the current tenants will be moving to the new incubator, Stephan said, to take advantage of the wet labs and to free up space within the facility.

The amount of wet and traditional lab space will be equal in the new structure, which will be designed and built to allow for tenant flexibility, Stephan said. Members appointed to an advisory board will determine which companies get space in the incubator.

Incubators abound

IU officials visited several incubators around the country, including Purdue Research Park, to gather information. Once IU's center is finished, it will rank among the state's largest incubators. Still, it pales in comparison to Purdue's 259,000-square-foot park.

Stephan is well aware of the contrast, but is confident IU is making strides.

"The fact of the matter is, Purdue is a national leader in this respect," he said. "This doesn't happen overnight. At Pur- due, it's been decades in the making, and we recognize this will take time as well."

Purdue has emerged as a state leader in developing incubators. The university on Oct. 1 dedicated its latest contribution, Purdue Technology Center of Southeast Indiana, at New Albany. The 40,000-square-foot center will be jointly occupied by tenants and the Purdue College of Technology at New Albany.

In addition, construction of the new Purdue Research Park at the Ameriplex industrial park on the west side of Indianapolis is progressing. The first phase of the project, a 50,000-square-foot incubator, is expected to open in late January or early February. It could attract as many as 75 businesses and 1,500 jobs.

Joe Hornett, chief operating officer of the Purdue Research Foundation, which manages the university's research parks, said the dialogue with IU continues.

"I would say we were very open and candid with them about how and what we do," he said. "As one of the state's leading research institutions, there is no reason why they should not be successful in their incubation efforts."

Other universities and municipalities around the state are getting in on the act as well, in an effort to attract jobs and bolster economic development initiatives.

The University of Notre Dame and the city of South Bend are collaborating on Innovation Park at Notre Dame, which is expected to be completed next summer. It received state certification Sept. 26. Nearby, construction has begun on Valparaiso's Eastport Centre for Business near the Porter County Airport.

In all, the state has certified 19 technology parks, spanning from Evansville to Crown Point to Fort Wayne. Completion of the Notre Dame and IU parks will broaden university-related efforts throughout much of the state, in essence creating a potential life sciences cooperative that could "compete with anyone in the world," IU's Armstrong said.
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