THOMAS O’NEAL, PH.D.
Associate VP for Research & Commercialization, University of Central Florida
This issue of FloridaTrep features the UCF Business Incubation Program. Business incubation works and I’ll tell you why.
For more than 17 years, the UCF Business Incubation program has been a community resource providing early stage companies with the tools, training and infrastructure to become nancially stable, high growth, high impact enterprises.
Success stories involve graduate companies such as Fattmerchant – a woman- owned business launched in 2014 making national headlines changing the credit card industry; Savage Race – ranked as the 266th Fastest-Growing Private Company by Inc. Magazine; Unikey selected to pitch on ABC’s Shark Tank and landing a deal with Kwikset soon after the show; EdgeFactory – the 100th company to participate in the program and Orange Blossom Pilsner – part of the craft beer movement in Central Florida. These are just a few of the hundreds of companies helped over the years that are reaching their potential faster by having access to the incubation program’s vital business development resources.
In 1999, the program began with the rst incubator in the Central Florida Research Park – dedicated to assist technology growth companies. It has evolved to provide seven facilities throughout Central Florida. The program is made possible through economic development partnerships between UCF, The Corridor, Orange, Osceola, Seminole and Volusia Counties, as well as the cities of Apopka, Kissimmee, Orlando and Winter Springs.
The International Business Innovation Association (InBIA) has awarded the program in 2004 and 2014 as the Incubator of the Year and the Incubation Network of the Year, respectively. In 2015, it was designated as an of cial Soft Landing program by the InBIA, which encourages national and international companies to expand their of ces to Central Florida. About 20 companies have participated in the Soft Landing program, with Freshorize and Stirling Dynamics as a few success stories.
Word of our program and its best practices has attracted international attention. In recent years, we’ve hosted delegates from countries such as Germany, France, Spain, Dominican Republic, Italy, Colombia, Brazil and Russia – just to name a few!
As part of a larger entrepreneurial ecosystem emerging in Central Florida, the economic impact of the UCF Business Incubation Program validates the program’s value to the community. During the last scal year, the program returned $7.95 for every $1.00 invested. Participating companies sustain more than 3,600 local jobs and have had a total impact of $1.51 billion on regional sales and $2.48 billion on regional economic output. Business incubation works, and the UCF Business Incubation Program is an example of a good economic investment. It illustrates the power of regional partnerships and UCF’s commitment to strengthening entrepreneurship.