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UF’s business incubator awarded ‘best in the world’

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Posted: Tuesday, April 16, 2013 1:00 am

Inside the office of the Sid Martin Biotechnology Incubator, balloons ornament silk trees, vases full of flowers embellish the desks and “Congratulations!” fill the hallways.

Sid Martin is one of UF’s business incubators, and last week, it was recognized as the best incubator in the world.

The National Business Incubator Association distributed the awards at its 27th International Conference of Business Incubation in Boston.

Like a prenatal baby or newborn chick not ready for the world, an incubator provides the support and nourishment a new company needs.

As a biotechnology incubator, Sid Martin supplies wet labs, multifaceted laboratories capable of analyzing or testing chemicals, drugs or other biological matter.

They can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, said Sid Martin’s Associate Director Patti Breedlove.

The Randall M. Whaley Incubator of the Year award is given by the association to the most successful, supportive and all around best incubator in the world.

Many companies supported by Sid Martin felt the win was a long time coming, but Breedlove was less sure.

“I felt pretty discouraged when we found out the other finalist was a huge company in Hong Kong,” she said. “I thought we didn’t have a chance.”

Merrie Shaw, the incubator manager, was Sid Martin’s representative in Boston.

She had learned the Hong Kong incubator was government funded, and if it won, it would be a huge honor for all of China.

But Hong Kong didn’t win.

“All of sudden, I heard, ‘The winner is UF Sid Martin!’” Shaw said.

They announced Sid Martin had raised more than $800 million in funding, to which Shaw politely corrected.

“When I said it was over one billion, people clapped and stood up.”

The UF incubator is a 40,000-square-foot facility located in Alachua, about 25 minutes from campus.

At this time, the incubator houses nine companies and supports 14 outside of its walls.

On average, it produces annual economic impact of about $100 million for Alachua County, Breedlove said.

“Companies apply, but not everyone is accepted,” she said. “If they are accepted, then almost all of our resources are available to them.”

Acceptance brings access to lab equipment, seminars and networking opportunities for one year, which is all included in one price.

If a company wants to stay another year, it must reapply.

Banyan Biomarkers, which has an office in the building, is the first company to give a blood test and, 30 minutes later, be able to determine if someone has a mild, moderate or serious concussion.

The U.S. military provides about 80 percent of its funding. Also, the research is currently being tested on the UF football team and women’s lacrosse team.

Kelly Smith, head of Pasteuria Bioscience Inc., said the company wouldn’t exist without the incubator.

“At the time [we began], we had a very small amount of start-up money. It was really only enough to support us in the incubator,” she said.

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