With a reputation of being a place where people simply “like to go to work” since its founding in 1987, the Iowa State University Research Park has become a nationally respected hub of innovation.
“Our research park started with the idea that we could surround startup companies with resources and tools so they could leverage the university to find success,” says ISU Research Park Director of Marketing Alison Doyle.
An Environment for Growth
Over the years, the park has provided significant support to its resident companies.
“Both Iowa State and ISU Research Park were instrumental in helping us grow within the park,” says Workiva Senior Vice President of Product Development Dave Tucker. “ISU Research Park helped us establish a relationship with Iowa State, where we’ve developed a good talent pipeline. They helped us find space as we needed it and as we continued growing, they helped us get land and put together a deal to build our own facility in the park.”
That type of support has led to many long-term business relationships. Over its lifetime, ISU’s Research Park has been home to 364 companies. Currently, 2,300 people in 87 companies and research centers as well as 11 affiliates spend their workday at ISU Research Park. Additionally, the park now includes some of the state’s leading companies as well as international brands that purchased some of the park’s initial startups.
Resources at the ISU Startup Factory
The Iowa State University Startup Factory launched at the park in 2016 to support aspiring entrepreneurs.
So far, it has helped launch 56 companies; of those, 53 remain in business. Participating companies have raised more than $20 million in external financing since being in the program. Eighteen companies are currently participating in the program while another 12 enrolled in January.
Based on best practices from Stanford, MIT and others, the organization offers formal training, resources and access to business mentors, advisers, counselors and investors over a 52-week period.
The presence of the organization also influences longtime park residents.
A Great Place to Work
Like the entrepreneurs it hosts, ISU Research Park continues to evolve to meet the needs of companies and their employees. For example, the area now boasts a cafe, coffee shop, bar, spa, salon, health clinic, daycare and tness center. Housing is springing up nearby so that employees enjoy even shorter commutes, and an adjacent conservation park with trails is being developed. Company representatives say that these amenities make the ISU Research Park even more attractive.
“They really did a great job of asking what employees wanted to see in the Research Park,” says Sara Hunter, outreach manager for Vermeer. “Having those amenities in the same vicinity allows the employees to have what they need right there.”