University-Industry Engagement Week

U Nevada-Reno attracts companies with co-location, “speed of business” mentality

By David Schwartz
Published: July 25th, 2022

A detailed article on the UNR Center for Applied Research’s approach to company co-location appears in the July issue of University-Industry Engagement Advisor. For subscription information, click here.

Co-location comes in many forms, and the University of Nevada Reno’s Nevada Center for Applied Research (NCAR) has used them all to attract companies that are currently based on campus. In fact, says Carlos Cardillo, executive director of corporate partnerships, he estimates that two companies a month are being incorporated into NCAR, and they are currently in negotiations with four more. In addition, he says, NCAR works with about 200 companies on a fee-for-service basis.

NCAR’s research facilities and co-labs can house early-stage start-ups, for example, which often grow to occupy larger facilities on campus. In other situations, companies will take facilities on campus, while at the same time building other major space close by in the region.

For example, American Battery Technology Company (ABTC), one of the most recent partners, has started new development laboratories in the University’s Applied Research Facility (which is managed by NCAR) while at the same time currently building a 100,000 square foot plant in Fernley, Nevada. ABTC has already hired three university students as interns and into full-time roles, and university alumni are employed in their lab including Director of R&D York

Smith and Lead Analytical Chemist Mark McDaniel. Other planned collaborations include a potential workforce development pipeline for university students, and working together on the preparation and submission of grant applications.

NCAR, launched in 2015, is supported by the State of Nevada Knowledge Fund through the Nevada Governor’s Office of Economic Development. NCAR-affiliated companies have created more than 490 jobs and have earned over $100 million in venture capital raised by affiliated companies. NCAR has also generated $32.6 million in grants, contracts, investments, gifts, and agreements to the university.

The idea was to create a central access point, a portal for industry to access university resources. “At UNR you’re talking about 55 to 60 Shared Research Facilities and Core Labs with high level equipment, labs, and infrastructure that can be used by industry partners, start-ups, spinouts and established companies that can have quick access to different resources,” says Cardillo.

Of course, along with these physical capabilities, he adds, industry partners gain access to the university’s intellectual resources. “If an industry partner comes to us and says they need help, we build a team of faculty, graduate students, and postdocs to help resolve those issues,” Cardillo explains. “It could be the service of intellectual capabilities, or a more engaged corporate sponsored project with the potential of idea creation and knowledge transfer.”

Having come from industry, Cardillo says that NCAR operates “at the speed of business.” He recalls a company that came from San Francisco needing access to a lab. “I told them, ‘If you need a lab, I’ll have space for you tomorrow,’” he shares. “They came, did their project for three or four months, and then left.” On the other hand, he continues, a new company from Palo Alto moved from shared space to a sophisticated private lab, then to office space. “In two-and-one-half years they’ve grown to probably 18-19 people, half of whom were alumni or graduate students,” he says. “They’ve grown so fast they’ve moved from prototype to production, using so much space they moved out to their own facility in Reno.

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Posted under: University-Industry Engagement Week