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April 18, 2003

Carver co-lab to include business incubator

by Teddi Barron
A campus facility opening in the fall is designed to help Iowa State faculty take the leap from scientific investigation to business creation.

The Roy J. Carver Co-Laboratory Business Incubator will provide interested faculty with an on-campus research environment to develop a start-up company. The incubator will nurture potential new businesses associated with the Plant Sciences Institute.

"The incubator is an exciting new concept for Iowa State," said Stephen Howell, director of the Plant Sciences Institute. "It will be a business pipe-line that can help get faculty started."

Phytodyne Inc. is the type of company that might have developed in the Carver business incubator, Howell said. Established in 2000 by zoology and genetics professor Dan Voytas and alumnus David Wright, Phytodyne builds on their discovery of plant retroviruses. The biotechnology company, located in the ISU Research Park, develops and commercializes proprietary technologies for plant genome modification.

Unlike the research park, the Carver business incubator will be a transitional environment -- an incubation space for research activities that aren't formally defined as businesses, Howell explained.

The incubator space will accommodate between seven and 14 researchers at any given time. There will be six incubator modules in the building (one large module for up to four scientists, and five small incubators for one or two scientists, each). Incubation periods will be indefinite, subject to review and negotiation, Howell said.

The facility will provide researchers with office and lab space, computer and telecommunications services, access to common research equipment and meeting rooms, and receptionist support.

Campus units involved are:
  • The Pappajohn Center for Entrepreneurship, which assists in developing business plans, conducting market research and finding financing for research.
  • The Center for Advanced Technology Development, which assists with commercializing new technologies, as well as with product development engineering and process improvement challenges.
  • The Iowa State University Research Foundation and the Office of Intellectual Property and Technology Transfer, which licenses and secures rights to intellectual property owned by Iowa State.
  • The colleges of Business, Agriculture, Engineering and Liberal Arts and Sciences, which offer programs that support business development.
"The business incubator will be part of the Plant Sciences Institute's activities to help fuel the development of the next generation of life science industries in Iowa," Howell said. "It's the centerpiece for the institute's efforts in strengthening Iowa's economy."

The 1600-square-foot incubator will be part of the $13 million Roy J. Carver Co-Laboratory building, which is nearing completion in the northwest corner of campus. The building also will be home to the Plant Sciences Institute, the Pioneer Hi-Bred Genomics Laboratory, a proteomics facility, indoor plant growth facilities and some of Iowa State's leading laboratories for research in genomics, plant molecular biology and high-tech instrumentation development.

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