USF President Judy Genshaft announced at a news conference Tuesday the opening of the USF Center for Entrepreneurship.
The center is meant to provide new companies with facilities and faculty assistance which will help them succeed in the marketplace and provide jobs for the local economy.
Genshaft said after the news conference, which was attended by university officials, members of the Board of Trustees and former Florida state Senator John Grant, that the creation of the center has been a priority during her tenure at USF.
“This is marvelous because what it does is it allows our own researchers to take what they’ve discovered and move it along to the applied stage,” she said. “It links the university with society.”
Housed at the center will be the university’s open business incubator. The purpose of the incubator is to allow faculty and business collaborations that will bring research work to the corporate and manufacturing world. New businesses will be allowed to grow in the incubator, eventually moving from the center into the business world.
Genshaft said the importance of the new center and its incubator stems from the fact that it provides an avenue for university research to reach business and society.
“Previously large companies have large research enterprise, but now they’ve cut down on those, and they’re looking for universities to partner with,” she said. “So for us it is incredibly exciting. For the community, it is equally as adventuresome and as innovative because this eventually will bring jobs here, and hopefully big corporations will result.”
Genshaft said the money needed to run the center does not come from state tax dollars. She said the money has been given through private grants and foundations.
“We have endowment money from the Kauffman Foundation. We have private venture money, and that’s how it’s running,” she said.
During the news conference, Dr. Michael Fountain was named as the center’s director. Fountain has extensive experience in the business world. He has several U.S. and foreign patents and is responsible for commercializing medical and biomedical products. His experience at USF includes a period as the interim executive director for the USF Research Foundation Inc.
Fountain said he is excited the center has become a reality, and he has high hopes for its future.
“My vision is to create an internationally recognized center for excellence in entrepreneurship, focusing on education, research and training,” he said.
Fountain said research from various parts of the university will be used to educate future leaders in business.
“We will create and promote an environment which supports lifelong learning and education for entreprenuerial leaders, enabling them to stay in the forefront of their current profession,” he said.
In his new position, Fountain will hold the John and Beverley Grant Endowed Chair in Entrepreneurship, which was created in 1996.
Fountain said he hopes the center will provide healthy business that will contribute to the Tampa economy.”It is truly our goal to create contributing new businesses for our community and new jobs for our USF graduates,” he said.Fountain said the center will efficiently move technology from university researchers to businesses and will provide students with a unique learning environment.
“We will seek to develop techniques and programs which will build and enhance technology transfer from this great university into the marketplace where those products and services will be of greatest benefit to mankind,” he said.
The new center is housed in an 11,000 square-foot office at Telecom Park, which is located about 1.5 miles from Interstate 75 on Fletcher Avenue, about two miles from campus. The center will provide 27 tenant offices, complete with office equipment. In addition, assistance from graduate interns and individual mentoring will be offered to the center’s tenants.