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Minneapolis to host annual conference of university research parks

August 9, 2010 6:35 pm by | 0 Comments

The University of Minnesota’s Biomedical Discovery District has the land. It has the money. Now it will get some serious validation.

Next month, the university’s medical school will host the annual conference of the Association of University Research Parks (AURP), a chance for wonks in economic development, innovation and technology transfer to swap best practices and discuss future projects.

One of those projects is the planned Minnesota Science Park, a $750 million, 500,000-square-foot series of facilities adjacent to the Biomedical Discovery District on private land jutting southeast from the TCF Bank Stadium on the east side of the Minneapolis campus.

Anchoring the park is The Minnesota Center for Life Science Technology Commercialization, a 60,000-square-foot building designed to convert ideas and technology from the university biomedical researchers into viable startups. A key component to the center is a $20 million private venture capital fund that will support the companies.

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AURP’s decision to plant its conference in Minneapolis is a major validation of the Biomedical Discovery District and its partnership with the Minnesota Science Park, said Peter Bianco, director of lifescience business development at  Nilan Johnson Lewis PA. Bianco was recently named to the board of directors at AURP.

Founded in 1986, AURP has been a major advocate of using federal money to coax university-driven innovation into viable companies through public-private partnerships.

The group warns that United States is losing its technological edge to emerging countries like India and China, which have been spending billions of dollars to build science parks and incubators.

Of the top 10 largest research parks in the world, only one — The Research Triangle Park in North Carolina — is located within the United States, the group says.

More than 100 Fortune 500 companies have already established a presence in Suzhou Industrial Park in China. Biopolis in Singapore now encompasses approximately 12 million square feet of research space focused almost exclusively on pharmaceutical research and development. India plans to invest $1 billion over the next decade on a large park in Vedenta.

Interestingly enough, one of the conference’s keynote speakers is Steven Burrill. The San Francisco-based biotech investor is scheduled to speak on how companies should adapt to the rapidly changing healthcare industry. But I wonder if Burrill will give new details on the hush-hush Elk Run BioBusinsess Park in rural Pine Island and how the project meshes with the best practices outlined by the AURP.

For example, Elk Run is neither located near nor is officially affiliated with a major research university though the park is located 15 minutes by car from Mayo Clinic in Rochester. By Burrill’s own admission, no one, including himself, has attempted a park like Elk Run, which is backed by a unique hybrid investment fund that will fund both the startups located at the park and a series of nearby real estate projects being developed by Tower Investments.

Tower and Burrill have yet to announce tenants and investors but that might change in the next month or two, sources say.

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Thomas Lee

By Thomas Lee

Thomas Lee was the Minnesota Bureau Chief for MedCityNews.
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