Tech incubator rebrand to spur business innovation in Alabama
The University of Alabama (UA) has realigned campus resources in efforts to drive business growth and create an ecosystem of support for the region’s entrepreneurs.
Part of the realignment process is the rebranding of the university’s Bama Technology Lab, which provides on-campus support for startup companies. The tech incubator is now known as EDGE Labs, taking its name from its off-campus equivalent, The EDGE.
More than just a name change, the tech incubator will serve as a strategic counterpart to The EDGE, a 26,000 square foot co-working and collaboration space launched in February. The EDGE is a product of a collaboration between UA, the City of Tuscaloosa and the Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama.
UA President Stuart R. Bell said aligning campus resources was necessary to accelerate efforts in the region to boost job growth and create new opportunities. Combining the resources of UA’s tech incubator with The EDGE, he said, was the smart thing to do.
“Among the strategic goals of The University of Alabama is improving the impact of activities that positively affect regional economic development,” Bell said. “This restructuring of our resources will go a long way toward meeting that shared goal.”
EDGE Labs is home to wet labs and equipment necessary for new businesses in need of state-of-the-art facilities and laboratory space to grow their ventures. It also provides technical infrastructure to help UA faculty, researchers and students develop and test new processes and prototypes to turn into products for the marketplace.
“The goal of this change is to further align the ecosystem of innovation and entrepreneurship on the UA campus and in the Tuscaloosa area,” UA Vice-President for Research and Economic Development Dr Russell Mumper said.
“This partnership is a collaboration between UA’s Office for Research and Economic Development and the Culverhouse College of Business; both groups will be working to closely align the incubators’ work to meet the strategic goals of the university.”
According to UA, the Alabama Entrepreneurship Institute, a university programme managed by the Culverhouse College of Business, will work on turning the EDGE Labs into a suite of resources capable of providing support for new and established business growth.
This means a business at The EDGE that requires technical facilities and assistance can choose to use the laboratory spaces and other resources found in EDGE Labs.
“Or, researchers in EDGE Labs may discover that they have a viable product on their hands and can leverage the mentoring and networking at The EDGE to form a new enterprise,” AEI Executive Director Dr. Theresa Welbourne explains.
This alignment of resources will serve as a symbiotic link between both facilities, and will better synchronise activities to boost entrepreneurial activity.
“There will now be a pipeline that directly connects the new and established entrepreneurs and business advisors at The EDGE with the technical experts who are in place at EDGE Labs,” Welbourne said.
“We look at the move to rebrand EDGE Labs and bring it under the umbrella of AEI as a way of creating a center of excellence for business incubation and innovation. We want to enhance and grow our reputation for supporting regional entrepreneurship and economic development.”
The EDGE, located about 1.5 miles from UA, is an US$11.7 million facility with 20 offices, 100 workstations and several conference rooms, all offered to entrepreneurs, people seeking to build their businesses, and individuals who need working and networking space.
The EDGE Labs, meanwhile, are located on the northern end of UA’s campus, close to the Ferguson Student Center.