This edition of ISTC Catalyst highlights research and technology parks in Illinois. Read on as guest columnist David Baker, Executive Director of the University Technology Park at the Illinois Institute of Technology, describes the contribution of these parks to advancing our economy:

“The success of the U.S. innovation economy is rooted in the drive of entrepreneurial individuals to create products that serve human needs. The major challenge in commercializing new technology is moving from the research lab stage where proof of principle is obtained through prototyping, testing, definition of potential markets, development of a manufacturing process, and initial sales. Since the 1980’s, the U.S. has attempted to accelerate the innovation process by supporting technology transfer from university research laboratories to support innovation in the market place.  However, in the Chicagoland area, one missing element for technology development was the availability of affordable, flexible laboratory space for the incubation of nascent technologies.

University Technology Park at IIT (UTP) was conceived as a vehicle for filling this gap—to support technology-based economic development in the Chicago Region, while bringing high quality jobs to Chicago’s South Side. At the time, only the Chicago Technology Park existed on Chicago’s West side, and its incubator had been full for several years.  UTP’s development has been bolstered by the decisions of the city and the federal government to replace the public housing high rises adjacent to IIT’s campus with mixed income communities, and to relocate the City of Chicago Police Headquarters to 35th and Michigan, adjacent to the Tech Park site. IIT then marshaled public, private and university funds to transform four existing buildings into state-of-the-art facilities for start-up and growth companies in life sciences, clean technologies and information technology.

UTP currently has 23 companies and 8 research centers employing over 300 people. Approximately $100 million has been invested since 2001 in the four buildings. Phase I of the park’s development, completed in the summer of 2011.

Two key facilities now provide the quality, flexible lab and office space envisaged in 2001:

  • The Technology Business Center, completed in 2006. This is a joint venture between IIT and Wexford Science and Technology, LLC, providing state-of-the-art build-to suit space for companies  that have moved from  incubation to growth stage.  Two companies, Chromatin (a University of Chicago plant biotechnology company producing  biomarkers for plant hybridization) and Therapeutic Proteins, Inc., (the first U.S. manufacturer of bio-similars in an FDA-approved facility) anchor this building. TBC’s soaring atrium is now home to many innovation and entrepreneurial events, as well.
  • The Technology Incubator, completed in 2011. Funded by major capital grants from the State of Illinois and the U.S. Economic Development Administration, this has space for up to 34 companies in 19 wet labs, 9 dry labs and 6 offices.  The labs permit biotechnology, pharmaceutical, clean tech, materials and IT companies with everything they need to take their technologies to the next level.

Our key role has been to attract and concentrate government and private funding to build the sophisticated laboratory facilities needed for life sciences and clean technology start-up and growth companies in Illinois.  By doing this, we have succeeded in keeping companies in the Chicago region—that used to leave for lack of available, affordable laboratory space.

To read the full article click here.

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