New UAH Invention to Innovation Center fosters ideas, business growth

Published: Jun. 10, 2019 at 6:24 PM CDT
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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - A new hub for innovation on the campus of The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) is geared at fueling ideas and fostering economic growth.

The official grand opening of the multi-million-dollar facility was celebrated Monday on the campus.

It’s called the Invention to Innovation Center or I²C. It’s very modern and sleek, but it’s seen as much more than just glass, brick and steel.

Gov. Kay Ivey says it will contribute to the existing science and high-tech workforce.

“The Invention to Innovation Center is an absolute game changer in Alabama. It’s not only impacting the current students, but it will have a major impact on future generations so I’m very proud to be here,” Ivey stated.

The governor and other local leaders were on hand for the ribbon-cutting ceremony.

The Invention to Innovation Center is a regional initiative that fosters, promotes, and accelerates the commercialization of technology-based ventures through mentorship, funding, and strategic support.

The goal of the I²C is to increase the number of inventions that are developed into successful innovations, start-up firms, and growth initiatives.

“You’ve got innovation, entrepreneurship, all of this comes together to create jobs, ultimately. You see the innovation piece work towards creating the product and service and once you have that, you can get into the marketplace, create jobs and benefit the local community, the region and the state,” said H. Philip Paradice, Jr., Regional Director for the U.S. Department of Commerce.

I²C serves as the focal point for incubation, education and support for entrepreneurs across the 15-county region in northern Alabama and south central Tennessee.

The three-story, 46,650-square-foot building is adjacent to UAH’s College of Business building with direct access provided on the second and third floors.

The three-pronged mission of I²C focuses on:

· Stimulating growth of new and existing science and engineering high-tech companies

· Catalyzing formation of a resilient entrepreneurial ecosystem in the northern Alabama and south central Tennessee regions

· Building partnerships with various entrepreneurial ecosystems and hubs to create pathways that empower, ignite, and motivate the community to make ideas happen.

“You have an excellent arena to build in here. You have so much opportunity, so much capacity within the university itself to develop innovation, and also outside innovation that come in,” Paradice added.

Dr. Robert Altenkirch, UAH president, explained that startup companies will be selected to work in the facility. They’ll get assistance from College of Business students and faculty members to help them work up business plans.

Engineering classes, design classes, and project classes can also assist.

“It’s a technology based incubator, by and large to foster economic development, startup companies that are based on intellectual property that comes out of the physical sciences,” Altenkirch explained.

Five businesses have already lined up, he added.

The students who are assisting the companies get to see how the businesses run and think about if they want to start their own business.

Megan Nivens, is the founder and CEO of Flourish, a boutique marketing and strategic public relations firm. Flourish is based at I²C as one of the advisers and mentors for the tech startups.

“The I2C is a massive opportunity for Huntsville and North Alabama to be part of the ecosystem for startups and entrepreneurs to help propel the growth forward for the community. It’s a huge economic development workforce initiative that’s going to generate a lot of jobs, a lot of interest, a lot of tech innovation here. We have so much talent in this area and it’s a natural fit for Huntsville,” she said.

Sometimes smaller tech companies don’t know how to validate a market, how to navigate their competitive landscape or how to determine if there’s a demand for their products to be successful, Nivens explained.

Flourish wants to help them think from a strategic marketing standpoint and help them develop successful business models.

“We hope to provide them knowledge and insight to help them,” she added.

A number of individuals and groups played an important role in the construction and now the opening of the I²C, including U.S. Senator Richard Shelby, the state of Alabama, the U.S. Economic Development Administration, the Tennessee Valley Authority, the UAH Foundation, Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle, and Madison County Commission Chairman Dale Strong.

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