UNL Research Park Opens to the Public

New greenhouses at Nebraska Innovation Campus will include  a section where the plants--including full size corn plants--are shuttled on a rail system and photographed by a broad spectrum camera. Photo by Craig Chandler / University Communications

New greenhouses at Nebraska Innovation Campus will include a section where the plants–including full size corn plants–are shuttled on a rail system and photographed by a broad spectrum camera. Photo by Craig Chandler / University Communications

Earlier this week, the Innovation Campus at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln opened to the public, complete with open tours of the brand-new Food Innovation Center and Greenhouse Innovation Center. UNL faculty and community members have been waiting for this day with bated breath, as we reported back in May when the Innovation Campus was only partially complete. The 2.2 million square foot campus, including an innovation studio and the aforementioned centers, along with other spaces, is one that alumni are proud to claim: “I think the innovation campus brings to Nebraska the ability to attract private industry,” said alumnus Gene Crump. “It’s allowing them to collaborate with the university. Food sciences, computerization, structural things…it’s a good partnership with private business and the university. It allows them to do bigger and better things.”

Bigger and better is, in fact, the general idea of the new, sustainable campus. Along with the food and greenhouse centers, the Innovation Commons is a state-of-the-art office complex with spaces that can be leased by other area companies. The campus says that they welcome companies of all sizes, and hope to create a culture filled with a mix of startups, medium sized companies, and larger companies. The perks include office space, wet/dry lab space, pilot plant space, and greenhouse spaces that can all be leased by different tenants.

According to the Tetrad Property Group, the campus’s leasing specialist, companies in the building already include the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Industry relations, which works to promote private-public partnerships. There’s also the Robert B. Daugherty Water for Food Institute, a collaborative aiming to develop research, education, and engagement programs to increase food security. And finally, NUTech Ventures, the University’s technology transfer company, provides startup expertise to NIC tenants. The Nebraska News & Observer reports that “the campus has also attracted local and international businesses, from Hastings HVAC in central Nebraska to Suji’s Cuisine, a Korean food processor with restaurants in South Korea and Japan.”

Thursday was the first opportunity the public had to see the shiny new systems in their new campus innovation homes. The Food Processing Center, for example, has increased in size and includes new appliances for baking, freezing, texturizing, pressure cooking, and more. A World-Herald editorial points out that the new facilities are truly world-class, and will take UNL’s work in food science to the next level: “students and faculty will pursue cutting-edge work in food processing, safety, allergens, and nutrition. Classrooms will enable advanced study in food-focused chemistry, microbiology, and product development.” Additionally, the number of students the facility can hold has increased from 30 to 90.

To learn more about the greenhouse, the tours, and other benefits of the Nebraska Innovation Campus, check out this Daily Nebraskan article here. It’s the talk of the town for manufacturers, food scientists, botanists, engineers, and others who are fans of innovation and looking for a space for collaboration. Harvey Perlman, UNL Chancellor, said that the space is about “connecting talent, connecting ideas, and connecting resources to transform ideas into innovation.”

Photo credit: University of Nebraska-Lincoln