KINGSTON– The University of Rhode Island is fast becoming one of the top research and economic engines in the state and it may take one step forward by developing a research and technology park to connect private firms with students and the state.
To determine the viability of developing a research and technology park, URI has hired Scheer Partners of Rockville, Md., a provider of fully integrated commercial real estate services for the life science industry, as a consultant. The park would be located on the University’s north campus and would house science, engineering and technology firms. The research and technology park will focus on securing companies that do business in Rhode Island and throughout the Northeast corridor.
“Continuing to enhance the University’s research agenda, as well as expanding our economic development partnerships, makes such a park a focus for us,” URI President David M. Dooley said. “We have become a major player in economic development throughout our state and our region. At the same time, combining our faculty, staff, and student capabilities with private business projects to enhance the quality of life gets at the core of our mission.”
According to URI Vice President for Research and Economic Development Peter Alfonso the study is determine the liability of such a technology park. At a meeting Monday night between South Kingstown and URI officials, Alfonso explained that a similar study was done previously, but due to the global financial situation, it was not a viable option at the time.
However, seeing that now a technology park is the right thing to move URI forward, the University is revisiting the concept. It will take three to four months to complete the study.
“We have to first determine if we have a technology park located on the north campus, is it still financially viable? How many private sector partners want to be close to [URI] facilities?” Alfonso said.
URI Vice President of Administration Robert Weygand said the main focus of the study is to see how many private sector businesses would be willing to pay for rent for a facility on the URI campus.
“This is an enterprise that has to pay for itself. We want to know if we can occupy much of the building before we go down that road,” Weygand said.
Scheer Partners Founder and President Robert Scheer is leading the team that will lead the consulting project. Currently, Scheer Partners is conducting a financial analysis and market research, compiling a list of companies to target for tenancy in the park.
Scheer Partners is also working with economic development officials to secure funding at the state and local levels. Alfonso said the cost of the study, which is $100,000 is born by the URI Research Foundation.
As part of their assignment, Scheer Partners has engaged Gaudreau & Associates, Inc. to develop plans for a University of Rhode Island park, which would initially include a 50,000-square-foot building and in total encompass between 200,000 and 300,000 square feet of space on the north part of the URI campus.
“The growth of research coming to URI has has two record years in a row,” Alfonso said. “For about 10 years, we received between $62 million and $65 million in research enterprise brought it. In fiscal year 2009, that number went to $86 million. Last year, it was $105 million.”
As the University increases its research capacity, Alfonso said URI has made new hires and enhanced services provided to faculty. Furthering this goal, the proposed research and technology park is also expected to include incubator space to support start-up, faculty-created businesses, which will lead to a higher technology transfer.
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