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Research Centers Gaining Momentum with Help from Private-Sector Partners

July 24, 2013

The co-locating of researchers, donated equipment, and capital are recent examples of key elements provided by private-sector partners to help accelerate technology commercialization. In the past month, leaders from universities and nonprofit organizations across the country have announced new efforts to expand research capacity and bring more products to market by launching innovative centers in collaboration with corporate partners.

University-industry alliances often are credited with helping build regional innovation ecosystems with successes cited in new company formation, high-tech job creation and a better trained workforce, among others. Often times, companies look to leverage their R&D activities with complementary initiatives taking place at local universities. So is the case in Burlington, MA, where a new innovation center aimed at accelerating the commercialization of basic research is the product of a partnership between Northeastern University and Rogers Corporation.

The George J. Kostas Research Institute for Homeland Security is a planned 4,000-square-foot center to be completed by the end of the year on the university campus. While targeted toward the earliest stages of technical and commercial development, its initial focus is on robust communications infrastructure, according to a press release. Rogers develops and manufactures high-performance materials used in high-frequency printed circuits, power electronics, impact protection and sealing applications.

For Southern Illinois University in Edwardsville, IL, a nationally recognized research center dedicated to advanced biofuels research sets them apart from peer institutions. Recently, university leaders announced they will expand a groundbreaking investigation of new technologies, which they say was made possible by leveraging matching funds on the value of donated equipment from a leading manufacturer. The company provided the center with a 90-day, no-cost lease on equipment that enables the center to continue grant-funded research at a scale not currently achievable in a laboratory setting, according to the university. The investigating focuses on new pretreatment technologies for cellulose and biomass cellulose used in the production of advanced biofuels.

Another recent example of private-sector involvement to advance technology commercialization occurred in New York with the announcement of a $23 million investment to build a new Battery and Energy Storage Technology (BEST) Testing and Commercialization Center. NY-BEST and DNV KEMA Energy & Sustainability outlined in a press release a partnership agreement where the company will provide up to $16 million, including re-location of its existing energy storage testing operations from its Pennsylvania-based lab to a new center in Rochester, NY. The center will provide the elements necessary for commercialization in the energy storage business, such as a suite of test, validation and independent certification capabilities, which are difficult for individual companies to procure. The remaining funding is provided by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) and the Empire State Development Corporation. Officials anticipate a December 2013 opening for the new center.

Illinois, Massachusetts, New Yorkhigher ed, commercialization