Monday, November 15, 2010

U of L chief touts partnership

By Joy Campbell, Messenger-Inquirer

Published: Saturday, November 13, 2010 12:02 AM CST

Owensboro start-up companies in life sciences areas such as health care, food service and agriculture will have a greater shot at success with a new partnership between the Greater Owensboro Economic Development Corp. and the University of Louisville.

The resources of Nucleus, the Life Science Innovation Center at the University of Louisville, now are available to help in forming and growing more companies that start at The Centre for Business and Research in Owensboro, U of L President James Ramsey and other officials announced Friday.

The Centre, still under development itself at 1010 Allen St., is an incubator for high-tech, life science companies. Companies can rent office and lab space there.

"We want to make it easier for start-up companies to be successful," Ramsey said following a news conference to announce the economic development partnership.

The EDC and U of L will identify opportunities for collaboration. In addition, new companies can harness the buying power of U of L to help control expenses in areas such as health insurance.

Nucleus will provide resources for fledgling, high-tech companies in areas of business planning and information technology.

U of L already has strong ties to Owensboro Medical Health System with a bachelor's degree RN program and ongoing cancer research through the Owensboro Cancer Research Program at the Mitchell Memorial Cancer Center.

The university also is a partner for drug development through Kentucky BioProcessing, a full-scale processing facility that extracts purified proteins and other value added products from plants and other organic materials.

In addition, about 270 students from Daviess County attend U of L.

The new relationship is a logical outcome of both partners' missions, said Vickie Yates-Brown, Nucleus president.

The partners will be able to "commercialize the research" that's already being done, allowing it to "go from the mind to the marketplace," Yates-Brown said.

Since the Bayh-Dole Act of December 1980, universities have become driving forces in economic development, Brake said.

That legislation gave universities and other entities control over their research and intellectual properties. Before that law, ownership of the patents or properties was always questioned.

The top 10 locations on any economic development ranking/index are around large research universities, Brake said.

Without the potential of gaining a research university, Owensboro began looking for partnerships, he said.

"We're thrilled to adopt U of L as our research university," Brake said.

Ramsey called Owensboro "a community that gets it."

Jobs of today are different than jobs of yesterday, and investment in education is necessary to be successful, he said.

The partnership is about positioning the community and the state to grow and prosper.

Owensboro still is seeking manufacturing plants that bring large numbers of jobs, Brake said.

Those companies benefit from tax breaks, while start-up, entrepreneurial companies need different support such as the fastest Internet connections and IT services and ways to control costs.

"It's a whole different model," Ramsey said. "That's what I like about Owensboro. It's here."

Ramsey also made visits to OMHS and several high schools on this trip to Owensboro.

The Centre for Business and Research won't officially open until next spring, but its first tenant, Hollison Technologies, already has moved in. Two more companies are expected to move in by the end of the year, with six established by the official opening.

At least one company already has heard about the new resources U of L is bringing to the Centre and wants to learn more, Brake said.

Brake said the next step for this economic development tool is to finish the facility.