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Business Incubation Program: 15 Years of Helping Companies

Since its launch 15 years ago, the UCF Business Incubation Program [1] has helped more than 250 early stage companies on their road toward financially stability and transformation into potentially high-growth/impact enterprises. Utilizing the tools, training and infrastructure provided by the University’s incubation program, these companies have sustained more than 3,600 total jobs in the Central Florida region and have had a total impact of $1.51B on regional sales and $2.48B on regional economic output.

This is a celebration of what can happen when a community get together to make a difference.  The invaluable contributions that the partners in this program make to support emerging companies, stimulate job growth and strengthen local economies enable us to fortify the region’s innovation culture by providing ready access to our incubation services,” said Tom O’Neal, Ph.D., founder and executive director of the UCF Business Incubation Program (UCFBIP).

“We could not achieve the caliber of impact or generate impressive fiscal returns year after year without the continued collaboration,” said Dr. O’Neal who also is the incoming chairman of the board for the National Business Incubation Association [2] (NBIA), the world’s leading organization advancing business and entrepreneurship.

The economic impact outcomes are based on a study conducted by Vernet Lasrado, Ph.D., assistant director of research programs at UCF’s Office of Research and Commercialization [3]. The study, which examined the University’s incubation program from its inception in 1999 to 2014, determined the direct, indirect, and induced regional impact of companies participating in the program.

Structured as an economic development partnership between the University, private enterprises, and local governments throughout the region, the UCF Business Incubation Program provides emerging companies with a wide variety of support and guidance to help facilitate their growth and success. Incubation team members and partners from the professional community provide expert help and insight in a variety of areas, including leadership training, market research, business plan development, and funding strategies.

“It is an outstanding economic development partnership that’s producing real, tangible results,” said MJ Soileau, vice president for research and commercialization at UCF’s Office of Research and Commercialization.  “The support provided by the program plays an important role in the success of these small companies, and this success has a significant ripple effect on our community.”

The UCF Business Incubation Program, one of the largest in the world, features several locations throughout Central Florida including Orlando, Orange County, and the cities of Apopka, Daytona, Kissimmee, St. Cloud and Winter Springs.   It was recently recognized as the Incubator Network of the Year in 2013 by the NBIA, which is in the process of relocating its headquarters to Orlando from its current location in Athens, Ohio.

The program has helped numerous companies including OptiGrate [4], which came to the program for strategic guidance and is now bringing its innovative volume Bragg-grating optical filters to market.  Among the company’s many awards, OptiGrate was a recipient of the 2011 Florida Companies to Watch [5] award. Rini Technologies [6], which provides innovative technology and product solutions to tough thermal-management challenges, turned to the program for support after being awarded a defense contract and now has added employees and secured numerous contracts. For AVT Simulation [7], a provider of professional engineering services and training solutions to the simulation, training and entertainment industries, the program provided a location to bring its dispersed team together and support related to business networking and growth strategies. The growing company was a recipient of the 2013 Florida Companies to Watch award.

In addition to facilitating and enhancing the growth and success of local companies, the UCF Business Incubation Program offers a unique opportunity for international businesses, as well as domestic companies headquartered outside of the area, to enter Central Florida, one of the top entrepreneurial markets in the United States. The incubation program’s Soft Landing Program provides these companies with a number of tools, research and infrastructure opportunities to facilitate the expansion of their businesses into this market.

“The Soft Landing Program [8] exemplifies our commitment to provide innovative programs and services to help encourage and cultivate new business opportunities for the Central Florida region,” said Gordon Hogan, director of the UCF Business Incubation Program. “Successful incubation programs, just as the companies they support, must continue to innovate, evolve and adapt to changing market conditions and developments, to maximize their success and growth.”