The Innovation Center and Bradley University's Technology Commercialization Center
by Nancy Wright, Executive Director, Bradley University's
Technology Commercialization Center
The PeoriaNEXT Innovation Center at 801 W. Main St. has as its mission to attract and retain high technology startup companies in Central Illinois. Early stage companies can lease space within the Innovation Center and utilize resources such as wet and dry lab space, scientific and business equipment, high speed internet, conference rooms, and business advisers. These resources are at a significantly lower cost than if they were to purchase these services on their own.
The Innovation Center is managed by Bradley University's Technology Commercialization Center (BTCC). BTCC assists startup technology-oriented companies in finding early investment capital and business and strategic planning. BTCC works with researchers, inventors, and entrepreneurs to transform new technologies and innovations into commercial enterprises. The Center’s mission is to stimulate the development and commercialization of advanced technology by transforming the intellectual property in the region into successful enterprises, minimizing the management and financial risks faced in the early stages by entrepreneurs in the technology sector. The commercialization process encompasses technology assessment, market research, business, strategic and financial planning, and accessing sources of capital.
The building, which can house up to twenty-seven companies, has 48,000 square feet spread across three different levels. Before leasing space, potential tenants must complete a due diligence process to determine their ability to succeed and operate in an incubator environment. Once a company has “graduated” from the Innovation Center it will then move into its own facility in the community. Since the opening of the facility on August 30, 2007, there are four technology start-up companies in residence and three additional companies that have completed due diligence and been accepted as tenants of the Innovation Center. These companies are in the fields of medical devices, mechanical engineering, molecular studies and information technology.
The Innovation Center is designed to provide a place for entrepreneurs and technologists to commercialize innovative ideas into successful free-standing businesses, and could also eventually house various facilitation groups providing valuable services for start-up companies. The Innovation Center will leverage the strengths of Caterpillar Inc., the USDA Agriculture Laboratory, Bradley University, and other health-science and technology organizations throughout the region to mature start-up companies to commercial successes. The facility is owned by the Heartland Commerce and Economic Development Foundation (a division of the Heartland Partnership), and operated by Bradley University. Caterpillar Inc. and Bradley University have a collaborative presence on the 3rd floor, BTCC offices are located on the second floor, and Hopewell Ventures, a venture capital firm, is located on the first floor of the Innovation Center.