By Anthony Clark
Tuesday was a banner day for the University of Florida to show off some of the ways it is building momentum as a job-creation engine.
The morning announcement that an established India software company had selected Gainesville for its U.S. development center — lured in part by the computer engineering talent to come out of UF — was followed by a showcase featuring 14 promising early-stage companies looking to go to market with UF research inventions.
The sixth technology showcase, called “A Celebration of Innovation,” drew more than 300 people, including public officials, business leaders, inventors and service companies to the Hilton University of Florida Conference Center.
It also drew nearly three dozen investors and company management candidates from across the country, according to David Day, UF director of technology licensing.
Day announced the creation of an angel investor network for Gainesville that would screen and vet applicant companies for investors interested in providing seed capital. The Innovation Gainesville Angel Network will provide secure confidential information online to qualified investors at InnovationGainesville.com.
Ann Collett, vice president of Innovation Gainesville, said they were exploring the idea of creating an angel fund, but investors said they would rather invest in companies directly than pool their money in a fund.
The Florida Institute for the Commercialization of Public Research will screen applicants. Once a company has funding, the institute can provide a matching loan from the state up to $300,000.
Day said the project was an experiment that if successful could be replicated for the entire state and lure companies seeking funding to Florida.
The showcase started with UF President Bernie Machen repeating the morning announcement from the Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce and Council for Economic Outreach that MindTree Limited would bring 400 or more jobs to Gainesville, going in the Ayers building in UF’s Innovation Square.
“I want to make clear to everyone here today that this university and this city and the entire region are fertile ground for all innovation and technology companies whether homegrown or transplanted from elsewhere,” he said.
Machen said the growth of high-tech companies here would accelerate with MindTree’s arrival and the attention it would bring with it.
MindTree co-founder and president of the Americas Scott Staples said the company’s experience could help local startups.
“The more high-tech companies you can bring into this market, the better it is for us,” he said.
Day said they were already talking about the spinoff companies they could get from MindTree locating here.
Over the past decade, UF has spun off more than 100 companies and received $335 million in royalties from licensed inventions, according to Win Phillips, UF senior vice president and chief operating officer. That revenue has helped build 500,000 square feet of new research space.
Phillips said spinoffs such as AxoGen are attracting hundreds of millions of dollars in venture capital annually.
“That’s a new thing,” he said.
Last year, UF opened the Innovation Hub, now housing 17 early-stage companies and nine service providers that include a partner from a venture capital firm with offices in Boston and San Francisco.
Several of the Hub companies were at the showcase.
RelīOx Corp. is developing a resin that reacts with a chemical to produce chlorine dioxide more cheaply and safely than current production methods for use as a disinfectant in health care, food processing, water treatment and janitorial industries.
CEO Ian Knapp, who came from the water treatment industry, said they are working on prototypes and have customers waiting for the product.
Based on past history in the industry, he said he expects a major company to acquire the technology.
MLM Biologics was showcasing a dressing to treat diabetic ulcers and bed sores. President Chandra Nataraj said they have an office at the Hub, a lab at the Sid Martin Biotech Incubator and are seeking a manufacturing site.
Phillips presented the Clark Butler Entrepreneur of the Year Award to Randy Scott, founder of NovaMin, which was acquired by GlaxoSmithKline. Scott is now counseling new businesses.