GAINESVILLE, FL — The University of Florida’s Sid Martin Biotechnology Incubator took top honors worldwide this week when it was named the 2013 Incubator of the Year by the National Business Incubation Association.
“It’s always special when the University of Florida can say one of its programs is the best in the world,” said David Day, director of the incubator and UF’s Office of Technology Licensing. “Today, we’re the best incubator in the world.”
Statistics back up the award. Incubator companies have attracted more than $1 billion in funding, and successes include the acquisition of incubated companies for $113 million, $98 million and $34 million. Since it opened in 1995, the incubator has had 28 companies graduate out of the facility or be acquired by other companies.
The UF incubator won one of two Dinah Adkins Incubator of the Year awards for incubators with a technology focus, then went on to win the highest award, the Randall M. Whaley Incubator of the Year for overall excellence. In the process, it topped incubators more than twice its size, such as the Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corp.
Patti Breedlove, associate director of the UF incubator, said the award caps “a cascade of really good news over the last eight months. We’ve had our best year ever.”
The incubator is a 40,000-square-foot facility located in Progress Corporate Park in Alachua, Fla., and is currently home to nine resident companies and 14 affiliated clients. It produces an average annual economic impact of $100 million for Alachua County.
One graduate, Nanotherapeutics, just landed a Department of Defense contract that could amount to $360 million over 10 years to build a drug development and manufacturing facility in Alachua. Recent successes include the acquisitions of Pasteuria for $113 million, Celunol Inc. for $98 million and EraGen Biosciences for $34 million. Playing a role in building an economic engine like that is rewarding, Breedlove and Day said.
“The companies succeed, and we measure our success by their success,” Breedlove said.
Randy Morris, member services director for the NBIA, said the awards panel looks at an incubator’s record of success and whether it has the financial footing for future success. The panel also looks at whether the incubator uses best practices established by the NBIA, which serves more than 1,900 members in more than 60 nations.
Breedlove said the UF incubator owes its success in part to “a remarkably effective commercialization process at the University of Florida,” and to pioneers who saw the economic potential in UF expertise.
“We wouldn’t be here without the visionary thinkers at the University of Florida in the mid-1990s who created this program when really there was no role model for biotechnology incubation,” Breedlove said. “They gave us everything we needed to be a successful program.”
Day said the research generated by UF – the 12th largest public research university accounting for one-third of the academic research in Florida – fuels the incubator.
“We have a big extended team to work with scientists to build successful companies,” Day said.
The NBIA announced the two awards at its 27th International Conference on Business Incubation in Boston this week.