University, City, Project Future to build Innovation Park

Author: Dennis Brown


The University of Notre Dame, the City of South Bend and the regional economic development organization Project Future have joined forces to develop a technology incubator on a site immediately south of the campus between Eddy Street and State Route 23.

David Brenner, an entrepreneurial executive with some 30 years of experience, has been appointed director of the project, which will be called Innovation Park at Notre Dame, and construction of the first building is expected to begin in the spring and be completed by the summer of 2009.

Hiring Dave Brenner and the development of a plan to build Innovation Park have truly resulted from a team approach which has involved the private sector, city and state government, and the University,said Thomas G. Burish, Notre Dames provost.We are optimistic that our partnership will result in a successful effort. Similar parks associated with other universities in the state and around the country have proven to be wonderful means for encouraging research, taking innovative ideas to the marketplace, creating industry-university relationships, and for spurring economic growth.

The city has made a $1 million commitment to the project, using resources returned from the Business Development Corp., according to Mayor Steve Luecke.

Im especially excited about the entrepreneurial creativity that will emerge from this place, as researchers from different disciplines interact and dream,Luecke said.South Bend has a strong heritage of innovation – from Studebaker and Bendix to Crowe Chizek, Press Ganey and the South Bend Chocolate Co. – and Innovation Park will continue to build on that great entrepreneurial spirit.Project Future has had the development of a technology park in the region among its priorities for several years, according to executive director Patrick M. McMahon.

Project Future has assisted with organizing and advancing the discussion of the park within the community and provided funds for development of the business and architectural plans. It also will help underwrite the staffing expenses associated with Innovation Parks early operations, he said.

When this park is completed, it will have significant long-term benefits that will continue to percolate and send ripples through the communitys economy,McMahon said.

Like similar ventures nationwide, Innovation Park will provide space for Notre Dame faculty and students, as well as others from higher education and the private sector, to develop and commercialize start-up business enterprises – many but not all related to the sciences, engineering and technology. The proximity to campus will allow for easy access to University laboratories, technology, libraries and other resources. Faculty and staff associated with the Gigot Center for Entrepreneurial Studies at Notre Dame also plan to take an active role in moving ideas forward.

Financial and operational details are still to be finalized, though projects with potential have been identified as early occupants of the park. In addition to the $1 million commitment from the City of South Bend, support is being provided by the Medical Education Foundation of South Bend and the Indiana Economic Development Corporation through its Certified Technology Park program.

Brenner, a 1973 Notre Dame graduate, has been associated with the Gigot Center as an adjunct instructor and as a member of the Irish Angels, a network of Notre Dame alumni and friends who are experienced in entrepreneurial endeavors and interested in supporting new venture development.

With nearly 30 years of experience in leading successful start-up companies, acquisitions, partnerships and divestitures, Dave brings precisely the kind of background and energy necessary to take this new initiative and turn it into reality,Burish said.I could not be more pleased that he has accepted our offer to lead Innovation Park at Notre Dame.

Brenner currently is founder and managing partner of IdeaWorks, a start-up incubator/accelerator firm in Grand Rapids, Mich., that assists early-stage entrepreneurs transform promising ideas – particularly in high tech, durable and consumable consumer, and medical products – into successful new enterprises.

From 1991 to 2000, Brenner worked for Amway Corp. in Ada, Mich., the last two years as founder and president of Amway Ventures, Inc., which developed and rolled out independent business ventures.

Prior to Amway, he worked in a variety of management positions for Kellogg Co. in Battle Creek, Mich., including the final three years as president of U.S. subsidiaries and corporate vice president. Brenner held earlier positions in his career with Johnson&Johnson and Procter&Gamble.

Brenner was selected as Innovation Parks first director by a committee composed of Burish, McMahon, Robert Bernhard, Notre Dames vice president for research; John Sejdinaj, the Universitys vice president for finance; Jeffrey Kantor, professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at Notre Dame and former vice president of graduate studies and research; Chris Murphy III, chairman, president and chief executive officer of 1st Source Corp.; and Phil Newbold, president and chief executive officer of Memorial Hospital and Health System.

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