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National Incubator of the Year
UTC Main Incubator Office
Philip Chen, a seasoned scientist who had studied and practiced medicine for years, had some great ideas for starting a clinical laboratory, but knew little about running a business.
In 2001, Chen brought his ideas and $4 million in investments to the University of Central Florida Technology Incubator, which enrolled him in an entrepreneurship course, helped him develop a business plan and offered expert mentoring and networking. By the end of last year, Cognoscenti Health Institute had 47 employees and $3.8 million in revenues, and had joined the ranks of dozens of companies born and raised at the incubator.
Such success in starting and growing high-tech companies earned the UCF Technology Incubator the industry's highest honor when it was named the 2004 Technology Incubator of the Year by the National Business Incubation Association. The award was announced at the 18th International Conference on Business Incubation in Atlanta.
Since opening in 1999, the 70,000-square-foot UCF Technology Incubator has helped more than 70 start-up companies and currently hosts more than 50. Together, those companies have generated more than $140 million in revenue.
"I wasn't trained in business at all, and I'd been in academic medicine pretty much all my life," said Chen, whose Cognoscenti Health Institute also won the NBIA's 2004 Outstanding Incubator Client award. "The incubator had programs to train entrepreneurs and links to the local business industry, so it was actually a pretty easy decision (to become a client.)"
The incubator has become an entrepreneurial hub in Central Florida. Clients and graduates of the incubator provide work for more than 450 employees and 48 UCF student interns, and they collaborate with more than 50 UCF faculty members.
"We're entrenched in the university and the community," said Tom O'Neal, director of the UCF Technology Incubator and Office of Research. "And we've simply become one of the top places where people go to find out what's going on with entrepreneurship."
The incubator partners with Orange County, the City of Orlando, the Florida High Tech Corridor and others to provide companies with a network of community advisors, professional business development partners and community outreach. The Central Florida area has a strong technology industry supported by the University of Central Florida, the adjacent Central Florida Research Park and the nearby NASA/Kennedy Space Center.
"We have to filter (potential clients) since we have so many people coming out of the woodwork looking for space in our incubator," O'Neal said. "The great part is that even though we're getting more applications, the quality of the applicants continues to get better at the same time."
The incubator and its companies also benefit from close ties to UCF's technology transfer office. This collaborative effort provides incubator companies with a resource that might not be available otherwise and helps the incubator target the needs of researchers looking to commercialize technologies.