The robust push by the University of Alabama to promote entrepreneurship both on campus and throughout the region is increasing with an alignment of resources to better support innovators.
The Bama Technology Incubator, which includes on-campus laboratories and additional support for startup companies, recently changed its name to EDGE Labs and serves as the strategic counterpart to The EDGE, a 26,000-square-foot off-campus business incubator that opened in February as a collaboration between UA, the City of Tuscaloosa and the Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama.
EDGE Labs feature laboratories and equipment necessary for new businesses. EDGE Labs also provide technical infrastructure that helps UA faculty, researchers and students develop and test processes and prototypes that can be translated into products for the marketplace.
UA President Stuart R. Bell noted the importance of aligning campus entrepreneurial resources to growing jobs and opportunities.
“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.”
The name change represents a shift in purpose for the EDGE Labs, said Dr. Russell Mumper, UA vice president for research and economic development.
“The goal of this change is to further align the ecosystem of innovation and entrepreneurship on the UA campus and in the Tuscaloosa area,” said Mumper. “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.”
The university’s Alabama Entrepreneurship Institute, or AEI, a program managed by the Culverhouse College of Business, will work to integrate the EDGE Labs into an overall suite of resources to support new and established business growth.
“An organization that is renting office space in The EDGE and needs technical facilities and assistance may choose to utilize those state-of-the-art laboratory spaces and resources found in EDGE Labs,” said Dr. Theresa Welbourne, executive director of AEI. “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.”
The new arrangement will also allow for better synchronization of events and activities that grow and nurture entrepreneurs.
“There will now be a pipeline that directly connects the new and established entrepreneurs and business advisers 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,” said Mumper. “We want to enhance and grow our reputation for supporting regional entrepreneurship and economic development.”
There will be a symbiosis gained through coordinating the resources of The EDGE and EDGE Labs, said Dr. Kay M. Palan, dean of UA’s Culverhouse College of Business.
“We are working hard in the College to inspire and prepare our students to become entrepreneurs and job creators,” said Palan. “This action to smartly align our campus infrastructure and programs will help meet that goal.”
The EDGE, about 1.5 miles from campus at 2627 10th Ave. in Tuscaloosa, is an $11.7 million facility containing 20 offices,100 work stations and several conference rooms, all offered to entrepreneurs, people seeking to build their businesses and individuals who need working and networking space.