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Innovation Takes Root in Gainesville, FL

Higher education resources stimulate Gainesville's culture of innovation

By Brett Smith on November 17, 2017

Gainesville, FL
Gainesville / Courtesy of Camila Guillen

With a growing roster of innovative companies, a culture of entrepreneurship and a strong support network to encourage and nurture startup enterprises, Gainesville is fast becoming a global technology hub.

The region’s highly desirable quality of life and magnets like the University of Florida have made Gainesville and the surrounding region an epicenter of emerging technology and the home of groundbreaking new companies. Add in an affordable cost of doing business, and it’s easy to see why such a strong startup culture has taken root in Gainesville.

Innovation has a long tradition in Gainesville. In fact one very iconic company – Gatorade – has its roots in the city and the University of Florida. The original sports drink that would become Gatorade was developed by scientists at the University of Florida’s College of Medicine after a request from the Florida Gators football team for a drink that could help replace body fluids lost during physical exertion.

A driver of the innovation happening in the region is the Innovation Hub at the University of Florida, with many UF alumni either staying in the area or returning to it in order to launch their companies. Nanotherapeutics, SharpSpring and Feathr are the latest companies headed by UF alumni to set up shop in the Gainesville area.

“The heart of all of this is the university,” Weaver Gaines, board chairman at biopharmaceutical development and manufacturing company Nanotherapeutics’ recently told UF News. “If we are doing it right, and I think we are, it will look like San Diego in a few years.”

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Culture of Innovation 

In addition to being an effective startup incubator, the Innovation Hub places a particular emphasis on supporting women’s pursuit of careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), as well as female entrepreneurship.

“It is well-documented that women are under-represented in leadership roles in technology-based startup companies, even though research shows that companies with female leadership are twice as successful as companies that are led only by men,” says Jane Muir, director of the Innovation Hub. “And when women do start technology-based companies, they face unique challenges not shared by their male counterparts.”

The innovation Hub is countering those trends by bringing them to light and developing programs like Ewits (Empowering Women in Technology Startups) and the Collaboratory to empower women to become leaders inside their current organizations or entrepreneurs at the helm of their own company, Muir says.

Neat Biz Solutions is another company that has come directly out of the Innovation Hub. The company’s founder, Ravi Bhosale, gives credit to the Innovation Hub in helping his business get off the ground.

 “They have all the tools and facilities that are required for any startup to be successful,” says Bhosale, whose company developed a health care analysis tool for revenue cycle management, cash flow optimization, practice management and private practice business support. “It was really a good experience for us.”

In addition to having access to the Innovation Hub and other resources from the University of Florida, Bhosale says his company also benefits from the resources and talent coming out of Santa Fe College, one of the nation’s top community colleges. Santa Fe College is expanding its presence in the form of a massive new innovation campus anchored by the college’s Gainesville Technology Entrepreneurship Center (GTEC). Construction on the Cornerstone campus broke ground in April and when it is complete, it is expected to be a mixed-use campus with up to 100,000 additional square feet of space and 10 building pad sites.

Officials see Cornerstone helping to retain GTEC graduates and attract new businesses to the city.

“Having these two different sources (Santa Fe and UF) makes Gainesville a good place to do business,” Bhosale says.

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