The University of Nevada, Reno and the community are becoming intertwined more and more, and The Innevation Center University of Nevada, Reno is part of the equation. Named the 2017 Best Entrepreneurial Hub by EDAWN, The Innevation Center brings students, faculty and staff together with entrepreneurs, investors, mentors, economic development leaders and commercialization experts.
Open since fall 2015, The Innevation Center has four floors that promote entrepreneurship and innovation. Switch, the recognized world leader in data-center development and mission-critical operations, provided a half-million-dollars toward the interior build-out of The Innevation Center.
The collaborative space is made of conference rooms, co-working and office space, and the Makerspace, and the facility is home to Nevada Industry Excellence. In addition to being available to University faculty, staff and students, the resources and spaces of The Innevation Center are available to individuals and businesses through a membership model. With dozens of members and serving as home base to multiple startups and two venture capital groups, The Innevation Center is taking hold.
"There is a palpable, collaborative energy happening around The Innevation Center," Mridul Gautam, University vice president for research and innovation, said. "It has become a hub for ideation, creation, incubation, mentoring and acceleration of start-ups and new ventures. It is part of the network of individuals and organizations who are contributing to the vibrant, knowledge-based ecosystem taking hold in Nevada."
"The Innevation Center has helped the University re-imagine how we can accelerate the growth of a knowledge-based economy through research, innovation and collaborative industry partnership," Marc Johnson, University president, said.
Rose Catron, coordinator for The Innevation Center, said the facility offers something for everyone and every member can benefit from the environment.
"If you are an entrepreneur or a business professional, we have something to help you with every aspect of your journey," she said. "If you walk through our doors with an idea, you could use this space to meet with the mentors we have here and discuss how to get your business going."
Craig Vincze, co-founder of technology startup ClickBio, based the business at The Innevation Center where he consults with medical researchers and collaborates with his team to bring custom labware to market. Using The Innevation Center's co-working space is crucial, he said, because of the networking possibilities.
"At The Innevation Center, there's a constant flow of people who have heard about all the great things happening in the startup environment in the Reno area," Vincze said. "So we get a lot of other entrepreneurs who come through and we learn from their experiences and share ours. There's a mutual benefit there."
Jim Sacherman, director of The Innevation Center, said the interaction between the members is what makes their space so valuable. "These startup companies will seed other startup companies," he said. "We are just trying to become that kernel that will help them grow and blossom. Even the companies in the offices, as opposed to the co-working space, experience interaction between each other. It's both encouraging and something they can learn from. The whole is much greater than the parts."
The Makerspace on Floor 0 of The Innevation Center houses 3D printers, computers, laser cutters and other tools and equipment. Members and the University community can use the equipment in the Makerspace to conceptualize, create and take their designs and prototypes to the next level.
Crystal Harvey, the Makerspace coordinator, stresses the space can be used by any type of maker and not just startup companies.
"We have a lot of expensive and knowledge-based equipment here but the real value is making the equipment and space easily useable to a very diverse set of people," she said. "I want the Makerspace to bring in anyone who is interested in innovation or making something. Anyone who is interested in not just having an idea, but running with it. Making is a part of life; it's not specialized."
Connecting the University and the community
The Innevation Center is part of the University's emerging innovation ecosystem that is facilitating research, faculty competitiveness, commercialization and entrepreneurialism. It collaborates with Nevada Center for Applied Research, Biosciences Entrepreneurial Lab, Nevada Industry Excellence, Nevada Small Business Development Centers, and the University's colleges and many other innovation-connected services. This innovation ecosystem partners with regional economic development efforts and organizations, including the Governor's Office for Economic Development and EDAWN.
Catron encourages visitors to The Innevation Center, located at 450 Sinclair Street in downtown Reno, to see firsthand the impact it has on the local community.
"The Innevation Center is designed to be a center for entrepreneurship, small business, innovation, engineering and design," she said. "It's intended to be a connection between the University community and the business community. There's this false idea that the community and the University don't mix. That's not true at all. We need to help foster that sense of community from the city of Reno and the University."
Like Catron, Sacherman agrees that the community will grow from the work being done at The Innevation Center. He said the technology-development jobs being created by The Innevation Center's members and co-located businesses have a major impact on the community and add to Northern Nevada's startup ecosystem.
"The Innevation Center continues to be a key bridge between our University and our rapidly changing state and community," Johnson said. "As a catalyst for regional enterprise, The Innevation Center has helped bring together disparate groups, and has provided the synergy that is often needed to bring ideas to reality."
To learn more about The Innevation Center, becoming a member or booking a tour of the space, visit unr.edu/innevation.