LAWRENCE — A coalition of economic development partners, led by the University of Kansas, came together to launch the state’s largest business incubator system: the Bioscience & Technology Business Center (BTBC). That partnership is about to get an opportunity to showcase its success in a national spotlight.
Julie Goonewardene, KU’s associate vice chancellor for innovation and entrepreneurship and president of KU Innovation and Collaboration, and LaVerne Epp, BTBC’s executive chairman, were invited to make a presentation at the University Economic Development Association (UEDA) Annual Summit in Pittsburgh, Oct. 27-30.
Together, they will discuss the formation and development of the BTBC, an economic development project chosen by the association as one of four finalists in the “Community-Connected Campus” category of its 2013 Awards of Excellence competition.
“The UEDA is the premier association of its kind in the country,” said Goonewardene, “and we’re honored by the invitation to present. We look forward to telling this remarkable story of university-community collaboration in front of a national audience.”
At the meeting in Pittsburgh, Goonewardene and Epp will speak for 15 minutes, after which summit attendees will vote for the finalist that best exemplifies the category in four respects:
- Can it be repeated elsewhere?
- Can it be scaled up or down by other universities?
- Is it a sustainable program financially?
- How original was the concept behind the program?
“Our joint award application scored well in all four categories in the initial judging,” said Epp. “It focuses on how the university, KU Endowment and the community (city, county and state government, plus the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce) came together as partners to realize the BTBC slogan: 'Transforming Ideas into Commerce.’”
The application relates the origins of that coalition and the intricate bonds that developed with KU throughout the project. That close relationship deepened with the expansion of the BTBC to the KU Medical Center, the acquisition of the BTBC Expansion Facility at 15th Street and Wakarusa Drive in Lawrence, and construction of Phase II of the Main Facility on KU’s west campus.
“In the process,” said Goonewardene, “a culture change occurred at KU in terms of entrepreneurial commercialization, company formation and licensing, and the articulation of an innovation-focused economic development mission.”
This culture change is reflected in KU’s Bold Aspirations strategic plan, which calls upon the university to “promote active entrepreneurship and vibrant external partnerships” and “expand the commercialization of KU technologies and the incubation of KU startups.”
The BTBC system includes 65,000 square feet of leasable space, 26 tenant companies and more than 100 employees. The Phase II construction, now under way, will add 30,000 square feet and accommodate 18 to 24 tenants, including the offices of KU Innovation and Collaboration.
The joint UEDA application is available online.