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Universities, Partners Build World-Class Facilities to Spur Economic Growth

June 16, 2016

In addition to several new moonshot R&D initiatives and other joint research efforts, several universities recently have announced public-private partnerships that will build multi-million dollar, world-class R&D facilities. Whether it is on-campus facilities in Akron and Pittsburgh or off-campus facilities in Boston, Iowa City, and South Bend, IN, these new facilities are intended to build a 21st century workforce, launch startups, and cultivate R&D partnerships between universities and industry.

In May, the University of Akron, in partnership with Pennsylvania-based Tosoh Bioscience LLC, opened the Tosoh Polymer Chromatography Laboratory at the Goodyear Polymer Center on the university’s Akron, Ohio, campus. Tosoh Bioscience LLC provided funding necessary for the University of Akron to purchase several key R&D resources including Tosoh’s gel permeation chromatography systems. The intent of the new lab is to help “educate the next generation of polymer scientists with the best tools for their cutting-edge research to create, understand and use new polymers, nanomaterials, and biomaterials.” The lab’s equipment also will be available for testing for outside companies.

In partnership with Ansys Inc – an engineering simulation software company – Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) announced plans to build a 30,000-square-foot teaching, design, and laboratory for CMU students, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. While the cost of the building has not been disclosed, the engineering lab is intended to help CMU students transition into “what’s being called Industry 4.0, a new frontier of manufacturing where testing, building and production will become more efficient,” says Mark Hindsbo, CMO and VP of marketing at ANSYS. The new building will include:

  • Lecture Halls;
  • Research Facilities;
  • An 11,000-square-foot nanofabrication clean room;
  • R&D labs with manufacturing capabilities for projects such as a student-built race car or solar-powered boat; and,
  • A Fabrication center.

In addition to the resources for students, Ansys and CMU’s other industrial partners will have access to physics-based simulation tools and cutting-edge technologies for making, assembling and testing their designs. The three-story building will be completed by 2018.

As part of a larger scale effort to transform Boston’s Allston-Brighton neighborhood into an innovation epicenter over the next five to 10 years, Harvard University announced plans to open the Harvard Life Lab – a $15 million 15,000-square-foot facility that will provide wet lab space and offices for up to 30 life sciences and biotech startups. The intent of the new facility is to help high-potential life sciences and biotech startups get to the Series A funding stage quickly. To be eligible for space, companies must have at least one person connected to the university including a current student, an alum, or faculty member on its founding team. In addition to space for startups, Harvard Life Lab will also provide learning and career development opportunities to Harvard students; startups with the lab resources and programming needed to grow and scale life-science ventures; and, support Harvard’s ongoing efforts to build a successful life-sciences environment. To spur STEM education for Allston-Brighton residents, Harvard Life Lab will sponsor science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) workshops as well as provide $60,000 to the Allston-Brighton public school for the purchase of laptops for its students. 

The University of Iowa (UI) announced plans to convert a former pizzeria in downtown Iowa City into a makers space-type hub for local residents to design biomedical and electronic innovations including wearable devices. Backed by a $1.5 million grant from the Iowa Economic Development Authority, protostudios will include several resources including the installation of 3-D modeling software and hardware, prototyping, and electronics equipment and workspace. These tools will be made available to both the public and UI researchers. Protostudios is part of a bigger economic development plan for the area and will be located at MERGE – a new economic development center expected to open this fall.  MERGE is intended to bring together entrepreneurs, startup companies, engineers, technology professionals, graphic artists, programmers, students, professionals, and business resources from across the community in one location. In addition to UI’s protostudios, MERGE also will provide coworking and office space for coding and web and mobile app development.

In partnership with five public-private partners, the University of Notre Dame announced that the 25,000-square-foot Notre Dame Turbomachinery Laboratory will open in July. In 2014, the University announced they were moving their existing turbomachinery laboratory from its existing 5,000-square-foot on-campus location to a technology park near downtown South Bend, IN. By moving the lab off campus, the university contends that the lab’s capabilities will be dramatically improved due to the additional space, a larger staff (the off-campus facility should grow its staff from 37 currently to over 60), and help attract more R&D funding from both public and private sources. Notre Dame and local leaders believe that the new $36+ million facility will make South Bend a hub for turbomachinery and aerospace research as well as help revive the city’s downtown by helping attract better paying tech jobs to the city core. 

higher ed