Chandler opens bioscience-focused business incubator

May 7, 2010

By hammersmith

Until a few months ago, the former Intel facility was a cavernous, empty building, emblematic of recent years’ wrenching shifts in Chandler’s manufacturing base. But as of April 30, a 40,000 square-foot section of the building represents something else: the city’s aggressive pursuit of a dynamic segment of the bioscience industry. The Innovations Technology Incubator is open for business.

Innovations, developed for startup companies and complementary organizations in the biosciences, software design, and related high-tech sectors, was created by the City of Chandler to meet the persistent need of entrepreneurs for top-of-the-line facilities–including wet labs, redundant power supplies, and advanced communications–at a cost that won’t sap all funding for a new company.

The new incubator meets that need, thanks to the promise of below-market lease rates and the city’s investment of $5.7 million to upgrade and equip what was in years past a key research and development hub for Intel. And Innovations will offer an additional advantage that may turn out to be as important: the opportunity to work beside other incubator clients.

“What’s most important to our industry is a collaborative environment,” said Jeff Morhet, president and CEO of InNexus Biotechnology Inc., one of the new Innovations tenants, in the Arizona Republic. “Early-stage companies want to be able to depend on one another not just for resources and the economics of it but for active scientific collaboration.”

In addition to moving his company from Mayo Clinic’s Scottsdale campus, Morhet was hired by the City to serve as an advisor to incubator, helping to manage Innovations and assist other tenants. His nonprofit bioscience resource organization, ThirdBiotech, has also moved to the incubator. Other initial tenants include the Center for Applied NanoBioscience and Medicine of the University of Arizona College of Medicine-Phoenix, and Cummings Engineering, which designs software for secure mobile communications.

Gov. Jan Brewer was among several local and state officials who attended the incubator’s grand opening. “Here, entrepreneurs will find access to equipment, to capital, to the right interactions that will spark Arizona discoveries and new technology that puts Arizona on the global map,” she said in remarks prepared for delivery at the opening.

Chandler Mayor Boyd Dunn said at the event that Innovations would give promising firms a better chance to survive long enough for their technologies to reach the market and begin generating revenue. He cited the much higher success rate that incubator clients exhibit in comparison to all startups.

“”It will allow new ideas to flourish,” the mayor added in the Republic. “There are so many great ideas out there.”

Chandler’s director of economic development, Christine Mackay, said that devoting funds to the incubator in the depths of the global recession required the Chandler City Council and the mayor to consider first the city’s long-term needs.

“This took a lot of guts,” she said in the Republic.

The result is a rare asset for the entrepreneurial community, she explained. Outside of university facilities, “there’s nothing like this in metro Phoenix,” she said in the Republic. “An incubator with wet-lab space, nothing compares in Phoenix. It’s very rare.”

Mike Proctor, UA vice provost of outreach and global initiatives, described Innovations as well matched for UA’s heritage the state’s land-grant university, whose charter calls for it to focus on teaching agriculture, science, and engineering to state residents.

“There’s no better fit,” he said in the Republic.

For more information:

Tech incubator puts Chandler on cutting edge,” Arizona Republic, 05/04/2010

Chandler Innovations Technology Incubator Opens,” City of Chandler news release, 05/04/2010

Brewer to help open Innovations technology incubator in Chandler,” Arizona Republic, 04/29/2010