The University of Nevada, Reno's Innovation Ecosystem was among the leading initiatives from across the country recognized by the University Economic Development Association during its recent Annual Summit in Long Beach, California.
Together, The Innevation Center University of Nevada, Reno-Powered By Switch and the Nevada Center for Applied Research have helped spur the creation of 102 jobs, eight venture-funded startups and six faculty/student spin-out companies over the past 18 months. These programs are primary anchors of the University's Innovation Ecosystem, and their contributions and the overall Innovation Ecosystem were recognized as an Award of Excellence Finalist in the category of Place + Innovation.
While Nevada's economic upswing is often characterized by the notable, worldwide brands that have chosen to locate business operations in the Silver State, another side of the story - an entrepreneurial and startup culture - is emerging.
"The upswing in smaller high-tech, knowledge-based, dynamic and entrepreneurial businesses is helping in the creation of high paying jobs in Nevada, and these are more often than not connected with our research-universities," Vice President for Research and Innovation Mridul Gautam said in an August 2017 address to the Governor's Conference on Business.
The University's Innovation Ecosystem is facilitating commercialization, entrepreneurialism, regional collaboration and faculty competitiveness. The Innevation Center and NCAR serve as entry points for industry and entrepreneurs desiring to work with the University, and they help facilitate connection to the wide array of business-related programs, resources, facilities, equipment and talent that span the breadth of the University's colleges and programs.
Results are being achieved. More than 50 companies and 150 active uses are engaged with The Innevation Center. Eleven companies are presently on-contract with NCAR and its Biosciences Entrepreneurial Laboratory, an innovative wet-lab incubation space for life-science entrepreneurs, is expanding.
Located in downtown Reno, The Innevation Center is a collaborative environment where University students, faculty members and researchers engage with entrepreneurs, investors, commercialization experts and community leaders. The Innevation Center facilitates access to mentorship, investors, interns and a Makerspace, and its resources are available to non-University individuals and businesses through a membership model. It is also home to Nevada Industry Excellence.
NCAR is an applied research-and-development-technology center that provides access to the talent, facilities and equipment on campus. NCAR works with industry, early-stage high-tech companies, entrepreneurs and faculty members developing spin-out companies to help determine the assets and expertise they need. A customized plan and fee structure is then developed, and related services such as technical support, training, waste management and Internet can be provided. Eighteen months in, nearly $1 million in service and facility-use agreements and $3.1 million in grants and contracts have been developed through NCAR.
Supported by the Knowledge Fund, administered by the Governor's Office of Economic Development, NCAR also facilitates access to the University's Shared Research Facilities, which encompasses more than 45 campus facilities, laboratories and core centers, and involves the highly experienced faculty and staff who operate the equipment and labs, design and conduct experiments, and analyze data. NCAR also supports the creation of faculty-led initiatives, and current examples include Intelligent Mobility, Water Innovation Campus, High Performance Computing and the Nevada Advanced Autonomous Systems Innovation Center.
"These programs are successful because of the people behind them; the faculty, staff, students and community collaborators," Gautam said. "Together we are seeing success, and there is a new optimism and energy that comes of this."
The UEDA Awards of Excellence Program recognizes contributions to economic prosperity through leading edge initiatives in six categories: Innovation; Innovation + Talent; Talent; Talent + Place; Place; and Place + Innovation. For the 2017 awards presented October 3, the University of Nevada, Reno was one of four finalists In the Place + Innovation Category and "Launch Alaska," submitted by The University of Alaska Center for Economic Development, was named the overall category leader.
"This year's Awards of Excellence finalists exemplify the top initiatives in higher education economic development," Tim Hindes, UEDA executive director, said.