The new two-building USF Research Park, which stretches over 230,000 square feet of USF property near Fowler Avenue and Bruce B. Downs Boulevard, is under construction and set to be complete before the spring semester ends.
The park consists of an Interdisciplinary Research Building and a Business Partnership office building for local technology businesses. The facility will allow for bioengineering and life sciences research to be conducted while housing businesses that can turn research innovations into manufactured goods.
The park will cost the USF Research Foundation $46 million, which will be recouped from businesses leasing office spaces. Production began last January and is a month behind schedule, with the Business Partnership building to be complete in February and the Interdisciplinary Research building slated for completion in May.
Rod Casto, the associate vice president for research and executive director of the USF Research Foundation, plays a major role in the establishment of the park by overseeing construction, handling financing and bringing in tenants, all to ensure the facility will meet its deadline.
“(The park will) take inventions that occur in a research environment and bring them together (with business companies) so there is a higher probability of turning (the inventions) into product,” Casto said.
To assist technology companies’ utilization of resources at USF, a program called USF Connect was established to manage a cooperative relationship between the school and Tampa Bay businesses. The program includes the Tampa Bay Technology Incubator, which provides businesses with any support or supplies needed for entrepreneurial success.
“A lot of times businesses try to find resources in the university and get lost,” Casto said. “For example, say a company wants to use the USF Library. What can they use and can’t they use? Many times people in the university are not used to dealing with businesses. USF Connect will handle those situations. It also provides services to startup companies such as business plans and finance plans.”
In addition to offering USF Connect to help attract tenants, the Research Park does not require any leasing contracts when agreeing to rent office space.
“If you’re a regular business in a general community, it’s usually required to sign a five-year lease. We don’t require that because it’s difficult,” Casto said. “A lot of companies can’t lease a space with a laboratory and we feel that’s a risk we can take.”
The park is open to any type of business, according to Casto. Thirteen businesses, including Boston-based biotech company Intezyne Technologies, are expected to open offices within the park.
The 100,000 square-foot Business Partnership building will be three stories tall and contain 20,000 10×12 offices. The commercial tenants will be situated on the first floor, the business incubator and USF Connect on the second floor and a laboratory will occupy the top level.
The four-story Interdisciplinary Research building will feature a different type of research on each floor: engineering on the lower level; microbiology, chemistry and applied physics labs on the second floor; biological defense education and training on the third; and biological defense labs on the top level.
The Research Park will provide a multitude of benefits in various areas. Businesses in the park will serve as a source of financial support for the university, Casto said. Hands-on internship opportunities in both research and business areas will be offered to USF students. Casto said the complex will fuel the creation of jobs, therefore stimulating the economy in the Tamp Bay area.
“The whole community is going to benefit,” said USF President Judy Genshaft in a media release. Genshaft’s inspiration and dedication are largely credited in the establishment of the USF Research Park.
“The idea (for the park) had been around for a while, but the vision and motivation came from Judy Genshaft,” said Casto.
Construction progress can be viewed live at http://www.research.usf.edu/webcam .