UF Research Helps Drive Florida's Tech Economy

Despite the pandemic, University of Florida researchers conducted record amounts of research in 2020 and companies born of UF research continued to bring billions of dollars and thousands of jobs into the state.

“Our faculty continued their unprecedent pursuit of new knowledge, and our technology transfer team made sure that knowledge fueled new treatments, new products and new companies,” said UF Vice President for Research David Norton.

 In addition to a record $900.7 million in research awards in fiscal year 2020, UF Innovate also recorded a record 393 invention disclosures and signed a record 132 licenses and options.

 That activity will only add to the $12 billion in investment UF’s two business incubators have attracted to the region over the last 25 years, Norton said.

“The success of our incubators at nurturing young companies has been nothing short of astounding,” he said. “With the university as the catalyst, hundreds of young companies have helped put Gainesville and Alachua County on the tech map.”

 Norton cited UF’s No. 1 ranking among large universities for innovation productivity by the George W. Bush Institute and the Opus Faveo Innovation Development consulting firm as testament to its tech transfer prowess.

 A 2019 economic impact report estimated that companies with technology licensed from UF contributed $2.4 billion and nearly 10,000 jobs to the state’s economy.

 The university’s 40,000-square-foot biotechnology incubator – Sid Martin Biotech in Alachua – has maintained a 100% occupancy over the past five years and currently houses 15 companies. More than 100 businesses have gotten their start at Sid Martin and 88% were still operating, or had been acquired, five years after graduating from the incubator. All these companies started with five or fewer employees.

 Sid Martin companies have raised over $10 billion since it was established in 1995, and more than $7 billion of that in the last decade. Sid Martin has been named Global Incubator of the Year by the trade organization InBia three times, in 2013, 2017 and 2020, while no other incubator has been recognized more than once.

 “Sid Martin Biotech companies have created over 7,900 jobs in biotechnology, medicine and agriculture,” said Mark Long, UF’s director of incubation services. “UF’s foresight in creating and supporting business incubators in Alachua County has allowed those programs to make a dynamic impact on the Florida economy.” 

Among Sid Martin’s success stories are:

  • Brammer Bio, which was acquired by Thermo Fisher Scientific for $1.7 billion in March 2019. Brammer Bio was formed in 2016 through the merger of Brammer Biopharmaceuticals and Florida Biologix, which was started by UF a decade earlier to make viral vectors for new gene therapies.
  • Axogen, which grew out of UF research on peripheral nerve regeneration and repair, had a market capitalization of $720 million as of February 2021.
  •  Pasteuria Biosciences, an agricultural biotech company, which was acquired by Syngenta, one of the world’s leading agricultural companies, in 2012 for $113 million.

 Based partially on the success of Sid Martin, UF applied for and received federal grants totaling more than $16 million to construct The Hub, a 106,000-square-foot incubator in the Gainesville Innovation District with laboratories, manufacturing and office space. The Hub, which was InBia’s 2018 Global Mixed-Use Incubator of the Year, currently houses 55 companies in markets such as software, web development, gaming, biotechnology, food sciences, customer services, mobile marketing and aerospace.

 The Hub anchors the 80-acre “Gainesville Innovation District”, which includes six other buildings, the new Midpointe Park and Eatery food truck park and, in 2022, the iconic Swamp Restaurant.

 Hub companies have brought in over $1.92 billion in investment in the past decade, and their employees earn an average annual salary over $79,200, which is $26,606 higher than the state average.

 “The Gainesville Innovation District is becoming a magnet for entrepreneurs and corporate innovation,” Norton said. “UF and Gainesville are creating a thriving tech economy.”


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Joe Kays February 9, 2021