Business Florida 2020 - The Regions
On the Rise
Alachua • Bradford • Columbia • Dixie • Gilchrist • Hamilton Lafayette • Levy • Madison • Marion • Suwannee • Taylor • Union
Innovation thrives in North Central, a region known for its easy accessibility and abundance of workforce talent. Home to the University of Florida, the nation’s seventh ranked public university and 19th most prolific patent earner worldwide, North Central first attracts young minds as college students, then retains them as permanent residents and entrepreneurs, helping to fuel vibrant technology and manufacturing sectors and reinforcing the region’s reputation as a great place to live. For companies in need of seamless logistics, North Central provides easy access to customers and suppliers via two interstate highways — I-10 and I-75 — and two of Florida’s busiest deep-water seaports.
Technology and Innovation
University of Florida is one of the nation’s leading research institutions. According to a recent study by the National Science Foundation, research spending at UF rose to a record $865 million in FY 2018, a 7.9% increase over the previous year. So it should come as no surprise to find that Florida’s North Central region is a magnet for innovators and the technology companies they spawn.
University of Florida has been encouraging innovators and commercializing their discoveries for more than two decades. In 2018, the university consolidated these efforts under one name — UF Innovate. It includes: Tech Licensing, which commercializes discoveries; Ventures, which helps create startup companies; and two incubators — The Hub and Sid Martin Biotech — which help startups get up and running. The Hub, located in downtown Gainesville, has doubled in size since its opening in 2011 to provide a total of 100,000 square feet of office and laboratory space. Sid Martin Biotech in nearby Alachua has twice been named Global Science and Technology Incubator of the Year by the International Business Innovation Association, and its graduates have created more than 2,200 high-tech jobs since the incubator’s inception in 1995.
Among technology companies finding success in North Central:
• Anchor Biologics, which took home the 2019 Cade Prize for its discovery of enzymes that suppress inflammatory disease. The $25,000 prize, named for Gatorade inventor Dr. Robert Cade, is awarded annually by The Cade Museum for Creativity & Invention in Gainesville where exhibits honor inventors in all fields.
• Info Tech, a Gainesville developer of digital solutions to support automated infrastructure construction management and internet bidding solutions, has launched “Info Tech Ventures,” a mentoring program to assist local tech startups with software development and data analysis.
• Lacerta Therapeutics, one of 18 startups based at Sid Martin Biotech in Alachua, is developing new treatments for rare and often deadly hereditary central nervous system disorders. In 2018, Massachusetts-based Sarepta Therapeutics invested $30 million in Lacerta with an agreement to license three gene therapy programs, including exclusive rights to a treatment for Pompe disease.
And coming soon:
• To Alachua, San Felasco Tech City. The brainchild of two local CEOs – Mitch Glaeser of the Emory Group Companies and Rich Blaser of Infinite Energy — Tech City is described as an affordable live-work-play concept where seasoned companies that have outgrown their space can expand, business startups can accelerate growth and tenants/employees can live in close proximity to their work. The total development is expected to encompass 82 acres, with 300,000 square feet of space reserved for labs, offices, retail and light manufacturing.
• To Newberry, Agricultural Technology Innovation Park. Envisioned as a state-of-the-art research facility where leading research entities such as UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) can develop new technologies, Agri-Tech Park will serve as an incubator for agri-tech startups bringing new products to market.
KEY PLAYERS: Axogen, Alachua; Feathr, Gainesville; NanoPhontonica, Gainesville; Ology Bioservices (formerly Nanotherapeutics), Alachua