innovate

UF's Innovate Hub

About 80 people were surrounded by sleek chrome light fixtures and stacked two-story high windows as they walked into the UF Innovate lobby Wednesday.

UF Innovate, a business incubator located on the corner of 2nd Avenue and 7th Terrace, held an open house Wednesday for its new second wing, said UF Innovate Director Jim O’Connell. It’s meant to promote the success of start-up companies and the students who work there and provide internships to students.

“We all know what we think when we hear ‘student internships.’ Unpaid,” O’Connell said. “We think students should be paid for their work.”

The wing opened Jan. 2, and its expansion doubled the Hub’s size to a total of 100,000 square feet, according to Alligator archives. It includes eight large workrooms and eight wet labs for biomedical companies. Construction to expand the building began in November 2016 after running out of space for companies to use in the first wing.

UF Innovate spokesperson Sara Dagen said the building was previously called “Innovation Hub,” but it’s been changed to “UF Innovate | The Hub.”

The expansion was funded by an $8 million grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration and an additional $9 million from UF, according to Alligator archives.

Director of Incubation Services Mark S. Long said the facility has 34 companies currently working in the building and is looking to add four more.

One of the companies, Actionable Quality Assurance, gave a tour around its office — a small, well-lit cluster of rooms on the lower floor of the Hub.

John Harper, a 31-year-old UF College of Medicine senior, occupied himself with a plate of california rolls and basked in the afternoon sun’s soft glow granted by the lobby’s array of windows.

“It’s beautiful in here,” Harper said. “They did a great job. It reminds me of a cathedral.”