Nebraska Innovation Campus (NIC) is connecting the talents of experts, companies and the university to create a unique culture of innovation. NIC is a research campus designed to facilitate new and in-depth partnerships between the University of Nebraska and private sector businesses. NIC is adjacent to the University of Nebraska–Lincoln (UNL) and strategically provides access to research faculty, facilities and students. At full build-out, NIC will be a 2.2-million square-foot campus with uniquely designed buildings and amenities that encourage people to create and transform ideas into global innovation.
Phase I of development at Nebraska Innovation Campus is ahead of schedule, with facilities taking shape that will attract talent, open new opportunities for students and faculty and grow Nebraska’s economy.
The historic former 4-H Building, linked to a new building, forms Innovation Commons, a state-of-the-art facility that houses the NIC Conference Center and where Innovation Studio, a “maker space” for innovators and a business accelerator are underway. Already, the conference center has hosted multiple meetings and conferences that have attracted audiences ranging in size from 50 to 400 attendees.
The Food Innovation Center, scheduled to open in 2015, will house UNL’s growing Food Science and Technology Department and ConAgra Foods, the university’s first private partner at Nebraska Innovation Campus. Joint research projects between UNL faculty and ConAgra could include those in food sanitation, food safety, allergens and nutrition, and food product development.
The Greenhouse Innovation Center, a 45,000-square-foot greenhouse center, is also underway. This facility will expand opportunities for plant science research and education. The greenhouse will house a unique LemnaTec system, which uses specialized conveyors and a camera system to take high-resolution images of plants as they grow in varied conditions. The system – one of only a few in the world – can identify phenotypes of food crops that display beneficial characteristics such as drought tolerance and could significantly advance the university’s plant science research agenda and open new opportunities for private-sector collaborations.
That and other progress keeps Nebraska Innovation Campus on track with its master plan, which calls for 2.2 million square feet of developed space and 5,000 people – the majority of whom will be private-sector employees – working on the campus over a 25-year build-out. A generous $25 million investment from the state, combined with private-sector investments of more than $100 million, has played a key part in the successful jump-start of the campus.
Now, nearly five years after the university acquired the former state fairgrounds to develop Nebraska Innovation Campus, the initiative is well-positioned for its next phase of growth in leveraging university research expertise for Nebraska’s economic benefit.
“We’re confident that the metrics we laid out for economic growth are reachable,” Chancellor Harvey Perlman said. “The question is how quickly we want to achieve them.”
Perlman noted that the university has demonstrated a strong commitment in Nebraska Innovation Campus. Beyond investment of resources, moving the food science department there will create a population at the campus and potentially help attract additional private companies. Continued development is necessary to attract more private partners, he said, particularly those who need to make quick decisions about where to locate.
Dan Duncan, executive director of Nebraska Innovation Campus, said the university is in discussions with additional potential private partners. Innovation Commons already has leased 35,000 square feet – including for the Robert B. Daugherty Water for Food Institute and NUtech Ventures, UNL’s technology transfer arm – with negotiations underway for another 43,000 square feet in leases. Private partners that locate at Nebraska Innovation Campus must have a strategic relationship with the university and provide opportunities for collaborative faculty research or student internships. Nebraska Innovation Campus is being built around core UNL strengths in food, fuel and water – areas that are important to Nebraskans and others around the world.
Nebraska Innovation Campus provides extraordinary values to partners located on the campus. Duncan noted that the main advantage to having a presence on NIC is the opportunity to immerse a team into a collaborative and innovative culture filled with creative energy.
Companies located on Nebraska Innovation Campus will have the opportunity to become affiliate employees of University of Nebraska–Lincoln (UNL) and receive complimentary access to UNL libraries. Duncan said NIC partners will have easy access to students for internships, research projects and work-study (subsidized salaries) and enjoy complimentary Wi-Fi in common spaces at NIC and UNL campuses. Starting in the summer of 2015, there will be convenient bus transportation from UNL’s City Campus and East Campus to NIC and there is already reciprocal parking between NIC and UNL campuses.
Nebraska Innovation Campus is located adjacent to, and within biking distance of, the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. NIC is also located within 50 miles of the University of Nebraska Medical Center. This allows for endless opportunities to connect with research partners, qualified employees and motivated students.
Nebraska Innovation Campus is also committed to creating a sustainable environment. NIC is heated and cooled by a renewable energy source, the Central Renewable Energy System (CRES), which utilizes the City of Lincoln’s effluent from a waste water treatment plant. The system will be able to heat and cool up to an estimated 1.8 million square feet of office space. NIC is also working toward becoming a zero-waste facility. The campus features single stream recycling and NIC partners are able to collect and compost organic waste. All NIC buildings are energy efficient, meeting a minimum LEED Silver standard, and smart technology in all NIC buildings allows for daylight harvesting and other energy efficiencies.
Nebraska Innovation Campus’s central location in Lincoln, NE provides easy access to:
- UNL City Campus – < 5 minutes
- UNL East Campus – < 10 minutes
- Lincoln Haymarket District – < 5 minutes
- Lincoln, NE Airport – < 15 minutes
- Omaha, NE Airport – 60 minutes
- Interstate 80 – < 10 minutes
For more information about Nebraska Innovation Campus, as well as partnership, leasing and building opportunities, please visit www.innovate.unl.edu.