When the doors opened to the newly built expansion of the Innovation Hub at the University of Florida, the Warrington College of Business was one of the first entities to get space inside.
The Innovation Hub, originally 48,000 square feet of offices, labs and common areas built to incubate technology startups, is now nearly 100,000 square feet of wet labs, offices, and light manufacturing space just blocks from the main UF campus. It is also home to the Collaboratory for Women Innovators, officially part of the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Center (EIC) in the college of business.
In a new collaboration with the technology business incubator, the EIC in the Warrington College of Business will direct the Collaboratory program, which includes the established Empowering Women in Technology Startups (Ewits) program.
“The Collaboratory is supported by an Economic Development Administration (EDA) grant that was awarded to the Innovation Hub,” said Nola Miyasaki, Executive Director of Outreach and Incubation for EIC. “The Hub recently approached us to run this program, given our Women’s Symposium and other entrepreneurship offerings that are currently in place and which complement this new initiative.”
Kathy Sohar, who has worked with the UF Office of Technology Licensing, the Hub and UF TechConnect, will serve as the Assistant Director of Women’s Entrepreneurial Programs and will run the Collaboratory as part of EIC. Sohar is a co-founder of the Ewits program, a 10-week program in which women learn the foundational elements of starting a business and technology commercialization. She also was part of the committee that sought to establish the women’s Collaboratory
“Kathy will be a great addition to EIC and will bring a lot of diverse skills and networks to our center,” Miyasaki said.
“A lot of people have been asking what the Collaboratory is,” said Sohar. “It is a platform to provide resources to support women at various stages in their pursuit of innovative or entrepreneurial endeavors. Although there will be a focus on those actively pursuing a business startup, the Collaboratory will also include opportunities for women who may be earlier in the process and interested in learning more about innovation, entrepreneurship and leadership as well as connecting with other like-minded people.”
Sohar noted that the Collaboratory also will have programming that is non-gender specific. For example, an ideation program for early-stage companies to help develop their business value is open to both men and women, and she also hopes to include programming that specifically targets men as well.
In addition to overseeing the Ewits program and the women’s Collaboratory space, Sohar will facilitate a new co-branded program in the space, the Gator Accelerator. The Gator Accelerator is a startup program geared toward graduates from UF and EIC’s Gator Hatchery, which is a student incubator in the Warrington College of Business.
“The Gator Accelerator is intended to be an extension of the Gator Hatchery to benefit graduates who have started a company in the Hatchery and want to continue to develop it,” said Mark Long, director of incubation services at UF. In his position, he directs both the Innovation Hub and the UF Sid Martin Biotechnology Institute in Alachua. “Established businesses that have some structure, funding direction, and a product or service concept but aren’t ready for prime-time incubator space might find this a good option.”
“The Gator Accelerator will include cubicles plus co-working space and a networking environment suitable for company growth for a one-year ‘proof of concept’ period,” Long said. “It will serve as a good intermediate step between the Gator Hatchery and business incubators such as the Innovation Hub and the UF Sid Martin Biotechnology Institute in Alachua.”
The second phase of the Innovation Hub opened Jan. 2.
The Collaboratory will hold an open house on Feb. 28 from 4:30-6:30 p.m., for those interested in learning more. Register for the open house here. For more information about the Collaboratory program, visit http://warrington.ufl.edu/Collaboratory or contact Kathy Sohar at firstname.lastname@example.org.