UF's Innovation Hub nurturing tech gurus
The University of Florida's new Innovation Hub aims to create ‘collision' among entrepreneurs.
In a corner office on the second floor of the Florida Innovation Hub, three University of Florida engineering grads are writing code for a new mobile app called Beacon that can scan mobile phone users’ surroundings and provide them with digital information — everything from a weather report to coupons and a list of daily specials. Down the hall, a team at a company called Feathr is working on that company’s signature product — a smartphone app that allows users to create and exchange interactive digital business cards. One floor up, Matthew Herbolich is on a conference call working to drum up some new funding for TruVitals, a startup that is looking to commercialize a wireless monitoring technology that uses radio waves to detect vital signs such as respiration and heartbeat.
“Right now we’re up to 26 companies ... and I anticipate by the end of the summer, we’ll be getting close to full capacity,” says Jane Muir, associate director of UF’s Office of Technology Licensing and director of the new, 48,000-sq.-ft. Florida Innovation Hub at UF “super incubator.”
Nurturing startups isn’t a new concept for UF. Since 1995, companies at the University’s Sid Martin Biotechnology Incubator have attracted more than $1 billion in investments, contracts and grants. Successful spinoffs have included Pasteuria Bioscience, acquired in 2012 by Syngenta for $113 million. The incubator recently took top honors when it was named 2013 international Incubator of the Year by the National Business Incubation Association.
Sid Martin, however, is in Alachua, about 20 minutes northwest of UF’s campus., and the UF community wanted an incubator “right here on campus. It makes collaboration with the university researchers that much easier,” says Stephanie Warrington, chairwoman of the board of BioFlorida and a serial entrepreneur who has worked with eight Gainesville startups.