Office of the President

Dr. Patrick T. Harker is the 26th president of the University of Delaware. He also serves as professor of business administration in the Alfred Lerner College of Business and Economics and professor of civil and environmental engineering in the College of Engineering.

The Governor’s Entrepreneurial Business Conference
Chase Center, Wilmington
June 4, 2010

Good morning. First, I want to thank David for that incredible introduction. “The times beget the leader?” I feel like Churchill.

Of course, David knows I’m going to throw a lot of the credit he gives me right back his way.

When I asked him to head up UD’s Office of Economic Innovation and Partnerships, I had a new proposition for him: I asked him to open up the University of Delaware—get our faculty, ideas, and technologies out into the marketplace. There was no doubt we could get more research out of the lab and into the hands of people who know how to apply it and exploit it. By the same token, I wanted an accessible way into the University, so that entrepreneurs could take advantage of our intellectual and capital assets. This gateway exists now, and it’s expanding every day. I thank David and his Office for that.

I also want to thank Governor Jack Markell, DEDO Director Alan Levin, and Entrepreneurial & Small Business Development Director Ken Anderson for so clearly valuing and supporting entrepreneurship. They know that, 20 years from now, it won’t be people in billion-dollar companies driving this knowledge economy; it’ll be our entrepreneurs, our risk-takers.

The leadership in Delaware is paving the way, and I think we all appreciate that.


I know I saw a lot of you at the University’s own forum on entrepreneurship in April. It’s clear we’re building Delaware’s entrepreneurial capacity and culture with these kinds of conferences. And it’s exciting to see this entrepreneurial community take shape. Community is exactly what we need if we’re going to make Delaware a destination for this country’s top innovators.

Secretary Levin already shared the resources that DEDO and the State have to offer. So I’ll lay the University’s cards out on the table, too—tell you what innovation and entrepreneurship mean to us and how we can help make this creative, dynamic community thrive.

UD’s Role in Economic Innovation
This is a true obligation for us, because great universities actively build great communities. Not organically. Actively.

And while universities have long been looked to as economic developers, there’s been a not-so-subtle shift that places large research universities like UD squarely in the center of driving economic growth.

A role that used to be contained to research support, incubation, and tech transfer has expanded dramatically. We don’t just have to connect innovations with industry; we have to connect academics with entrepreneurs. We have to patent and license inventions, and launch and nurture new firms. We have to cultivate academic fields that contribute to technological advance. We have to develop—and exploit—the new ideas, technologies, products, and processes that transform local, state, and even regional economies.

Because Delaware can’t go it alone; we’re too small. When you look at us compared to the big states, we just don’t have the assets or the sprawling representation. But we don’t have to go it alone. Partnerships and regional collaborations will be key to our growth and prosperity.

We need to get people investing in this community. And the University has two huge assets that will draw investment: important research and creative people.

I’ve said many times that UD is a top-tier research university—Category I, according to the Carnegie Foundation. Here’s something a little more concrete: Data released at the end of last year shows we’ve broken into the top 100 universities for federal funding of science and engineering research. And we’re in the minority of institutions that did it without a medical school.

Our research portfolio is growing—quickly. Over the past year, we’ve won $60 million in stimulus funding alone—with the Department of Energy, the National Science Foundation, and the National Institutes of Health contributing more than 90 percent of it.

Just over the last couple of months, we’ve made headlines—here and abroad—for our alternative energy research. UD’s vehicle-to-grid technology—allowing energy to be stored in electric car batteries and sent back to the grid—is getting international attention. Denmark’s begun a large-scale investigation into using V2G to supplement its significant wind-energy supply.

But, of course, the technology has big local benefit as well, as AutoPort in New Castle is UD’s first proprietary V2G-licensed company in the world, and is now retrofitting the first 100 vehicles as a proof-of-concept demonstration.

Wind-energy will also bring a lot of eyes to Delaware. Next week, we’ll dedicate UD’s 2-MW coastal wind turbine on the Lewes campus. The turbine is our first step in amassing research that will lead to the first offshore wind turbine in the Americas. We’re partnering with the Spain-based Gamesa Corporation on installation and research, and we’re ready to be the center of offshore wind-energy science, production, and policy in North America.

And, of course, it’s our people who are making this kind of innovative prominence happen.

The Class of 2010 just graduated on Saturday, and I told them that talent attracts talent. The same is true for innovation: Innovators want to be where innovators already are. It becomes a self-perpetuating proposition. The most dynamic faculty and students want to be where innovation and entrepreneurship are valued.

The University of Delaware graduates 4,000 students every year. We have more than 140,000 alumni scattered all around the world. What if we kept those students here and drew the alums back? What if we gave them a creative community right here to invest in?

That community is taking shape.

Look at Elcriton, a Newark-based start-up focused on green and sustainable biotech. The company came out of the lab of one of our Chemical Engineering professors, Terry Papoutsakis. Lead scientist and principal investigator in the company is one of our former grad students, Bryan Tracy.

With funding from NSF and DOE, Elcriton is genetically engineering bacteria to convert raw biomass feedstocks and complex carbohydrates into next-generation biofuels. The focus is cellulose to butanol. The company has stayed local and is hiring local—a lot of UD alums make up the management.

PAIR Technologies
PAIR Technologies is another success story. The company is getting ready to commercialize a high-precision detector that can rapidly identify low-level biological and chemical agents in solids, liquids, and gases. The technology has huge military, medical, environmental, and industrial applications.

This was a really innovative partnership. The research came out of the lab of Materials Engineering professor John Rabolt. His students patented the technology. In a market analysis conducted by students studying high-tech entrepreneurship, it was this patent that consistently came out on top. So Rabolt and former DuPont chemist Bruce Chase launched the company, partnering with Scott Jones, director of our Venture Development Center, and Dan Frost, a 2008 MBA alum.

UD took a small equity position in the company, and it’s been growing steadily with federal, state, and University support.


These start-ups aren’t unusual. They’re proliferating around Delaware. And we have no reason to believe we won’t keep trending upward. UD’s invention disclosures are up 50 percent this year over last—with a month still left to go in FY10.

Chrysler Development
But I offer these startups as examples because they’re great illustrations of what we ultimately want to build here in Delaware—a thriving, creative community of innovators. And that community will explode with the University’s redevelopment of 272 acres formerly occupied by the Chrysler Newark Assembly Plant.

Last November’s purchase of the property was the largest-ever land addition to the Newark campus, adding 22 percent to our footprint. Redeveloping this land into a major science & technology campus will consume our next several decades.

The average University-affiliated research park is 358 acres. For an in-town University in the nation’s second-smallest state, 272 acres is a big deal. For perspective, I’ll offer up the Delaware Technology Park, about two miles from UD’s campus. The Park is five buildings on 40 acres, anchored by our Biotechnology Institute. It’s maybe 200,000 square feet in all. And it’s maxed out.

Since start-up, it’s attracted $250 million in investment and $300 million in grants. With 54 tenant companies, the park has had a hand in creating 16,000 jobs over the last decade. Now build that out to a 272-acre piece of land whose first phase of development—comprising just one-third of the total acreage—could yield up to 5 million square feet. That’s several thousand jobs. I’ve said it before: It’s our next 100 years of growth.

And if we’re serious about securing Delaware’s innovation leadership, we need this property. I think there’s something of a shark analogy in here: If we don’t keep moving forward, we’ll die.

Aside from its sheer size, the property has some key features that make it a once-in-a-lifetime acquisition. The land is adjacent to our South Campus, and less than a mile from our Main Campus. It has direct access to commuter and Amtrak rail service—service that promises to grow significantly and soon. The four rail lines border the property to the north, and so that’s where development will begin, sweeping south and west. I-95 is less than a mile away, and two interchanges serve the site.

All these commuter access points are a very big deal because, as I said earlier, regional partnerships will be the way forward for Delaware.

So those are the vital stats. Now let me tell you about what we plan to put there. This wasn’t a land-grab. It wasn’t property for property’s sake. We’ve had our activity zones mapped out for a while.

Health Sciences
First, we need space for health sciences research, education, and clinical care. DC-to-Philadelphia is a major bioscience corridor, and we’re right in the center of it. Greater Philadelphia just passed San Francisco as the country’s second-largest life sciences hub.

The ranking credits many of the area’s well-known assets—its workforce and universities; its pharmaceutical presence and research infrastructure. But it also cites the interconnectedness of established and emerging life sciences companies, and a strong network of entrepreneurial support for startups and spinoffs—like venture capitalists, high-tech absorptive capacity, and professional services providers. Health sciences accounts for one in six jobs in the region and 15 percent of economic activity.

And right here in Delaware, we have enormous capacity in biomedicine and biotechnology. So we’re dedicating significant acres to healthcare R&D. The campus will house UD’s College of Health Sciences and its various research centers—many focused on rehabilitation, chronic conditions, aging, and biomechanics. And it will be home to several components of the Delaware Health Sciences Alliance, like the Delaware Rehabilitation Institute.

The Alliance is a partnership we formed last year with Christiana Care, Nemours, and Thomas Jefferson University. The point of it is to pool our expertise and assets so we can conduct collaborative healthcare research, and more quickly turn that research into clinical practice. It’s also designed to expand our pipeline of health professionals and improve health care delivery, especially in Delaware’s rural areas.

Serving these last two goals is the fact that Jefferson is planning to locate its Campus for Healthcare Education on the Newark property. That means we could have more than 100 medical, pharmacy, nursing, and occupational and physical therapy students not only working and studying in Newark, but living here as well. And that means building more than offices, labs, and classrooms on this land. It means housing, retail, and residential services, too. It also means more health professionals in Delaware, as half of all medical personnel locate wherever they finish their residencies.

U.S. Army
Another major presence on the property will be the U.S. Army. In January, we signed a broad R&D partnership agreement with the Army—an agreement that opens both organizations up to sharing personnel, facilities, labs & equipment.

Right now, the Army is consolidating its Research Development and Engineering Command—all its high-tech information, communications, surveillance, and reconnaissance work—at Aberdeen Proving Ground, just 30 miles southwest of the University. That makes UD the closest Category I research university to APG and, ultimately, makes us a terrific candidate for an on-site, national-level Cooperative Research Center.

We’ve either signed—or we’re in the process of negotiating—more than 10 statements of work with the Army, covering research on antenna technology and composite materials, rapid prototyping, information assurance, and prosthetic devices. And we’re positioning ourselves to handle the Army’s education and training needs—with several graduate courses now being taught on-post, and several certificate programs under review.

We’ll locate other research initiatives on the property as well. They’ll likely surround some of UD’s strengths: chemical engineering, composites, alternative energy technologies.

Next January, on our Main Campus, we begin construction on a state-of-the-art, 200,000-sq-ft Interdisciplinary Science & Engineering Lab. The building will blend teaching and research space so that the instruction—the curriculum—is basically the latest lab work being conducted next door. It’s a way to blur undergraduate and graduate education, and instigate the interdisciplinary, collaborative work that breeds breakthroughs.

Our Energy Institute and Environmental Institute will share the space as well, and I know it’ll be the site of some major discoveries. So some of that work will surely spill over to the science & technology campus.

And then, of course, there’s transit, which has to be our first development priority. We’ll make this campus a regional transportation hub accommodating trains, buses, and car parking. But transportation construction isn’t just a station, tracks, and lots. It’ll mean extensive transit-oriented development—again retail, commuter services, housing, a hotel and conference center.

Transit development should come together well with the prospect of better rail infrastructure; more and better SEPTA service between Newark and Wilmington; and expansion of MARC service from Perryville, Maryland, into Newark. Well-planned, well-implemented transportation development is critical to a research campus of this size—especially one involving so many regional partnerships and predicated on regional economic growth.

Entrepreneurial Space
In all of these zones—in health care, in research and transportation—will be enormous opportunities for Delaware’s entrepreneurs. This was never conceived as a closed University park. Because we believe it will thrive only with a blend of academic and private research.

The incubation and proliferation of small-business startups and spinoffs is a critical piece of our mission here. Because, again, this is how you build a creative community, and how you enrich it.

Not all of the startups will be based on the University’s intellectual assets, and not all of the ventures will be high-tech. Bioscience, energy, engineering, and technology will offer some great opportunities, but I need to reiterate that what we’re building is akin to a little town—a place where people will live, work, study, shop, and eat. It’s been a mixed-use plan from the beginning. So the entrepreneurial opportunities really are extraordinary.

Development Timeline
And our first big step toward those opportunities comes soon. Six firms competing for the decommissioning & demolition RFP will be submitting their proposals to us in five days—June 9th. We actually extended the deadline to give the finalists a better chance to use local vendors.

We’re hoping to have a contractor on board by late July. And mobilization on the site begins 14 days after the contract is signed. The entire decommissioning & demolition process should take 18–24 months.

Entrepreneurial Ecosystem
This is an exciting time for the University of Delaware, and I think it’s an exciting time all around the State. We’re on the cusp of great things, and there’s a lot to take advantage of here. But we can’t lose sight of the fact that we need to actively help people take advantage of it. Because buildings mean nothing if they’re not filled with people who can tackle the entrepreneurial challenge.

We need to build our creative capital. We need to show that idea leadership matters; thought leadership matters; innovation and action matter; risk and risk-management matter. We need a network that encourages entrepreneurial thinking across the State and supports scholars, inventors, and innovators—all the way from enterprise idea through the launch and well beyond.

I’ve been calling this the entrepreneurial ecosystem—a self-sustaining network that brings together people, ideas, and capital to give Delaware’s entrepreneurs a tight support structure and clear pathway into the business community.

From the University’s perspective, this means strengthening the entrepreneurial components we already have, and creating those we don’t. We have a venture development center, an entrepreneur-in-residence program, a business plan competition, an intellectual property center, forums, and clubs. And we’ve just incorporated our Small Business and Technology Development Center into the Office of Economic Innovation and Partnerships.

Now we can create an academic major in entrepreneurship to complement the minor we have already. We can create a formal entrepreneurial mentoring program and a high-quality internship program. We can improve access to funding sources, and increase networking opportunities. And we can build a campus-wide system where all these things interact, nurturing the entrepreneurial environment as a whole and stimulating more and more creativity.

But this ecosystem isn’t the University’s alone. An insulated system would—by definition—fail. It’s reliant upon all of us—upon tight networking among the public, private, and academic sectors. We’re lucky here in Delaware to have government, industry, academia, and the community heavily involved and invested in creating entrepreneurial opportunities and supporting those who seize them.

Today is a great indicator of exactly that. We have some extraordinary opportunities right in front of us. If we’re bold enough to grab them, we will secure Delaware’s innovation prominence and unprecedented prosperity.

I thank all of you for building this community and leading the way forward.

Thank you.

  • University of Delaware   •   Newark, DE 19716   •   USA
    Phone: (302) 831-2792   •   © 2013