Nebraska Innovation Campus Mission Becomes Clearer

UNL is converting former fairgrounds site into a center for public/private research partnerships that will develop startup companies and new technologies. Feeding an expanding world population is one goal.

Published on: Feb 3, 2012

Nebraska Innovation Campus will be the site for startup companies and developing technologies to help feed a hungry world, Dan Duncan told those attending the annual Nebraska Agricultural Technology Association annual meeting in Grand Island.

Duncan is the executive director of Innovation Campus (IC) which is beginning to rise from the 232-acre former state fairgrounds in Lincoln. Planning is evolving for the campus, as buildings are erected and the search for partnering companies continues.

Duncan told NeATA members and precision ag industry representatives that IC will be a private/public sector sustainable research campus that capitalizes on research growth and expertise of UNL faculty to strengthen economic growth potential of the state and university.

Research focus areas for at least the next five years will be food, fuel and water, three themes that Nebraska is in great position to capitalize on. However, there will be other areas of research, too.

"There will be 9 billion people to feed by 2050, which means doubling our food production in that time period," Duncan said. "That has to be done with limited resources. No more land will be developed for food production."

Duncan said that 70% of this food requirement will have to come from new and expanding technologies.

"Ninety-three percent of Nebraska's land mass is dedicated to production agriculture, half in crops and half in pasture/rangeland," he added. "We are a leading public institution in 'feeding the future.' "

IC research will be a focal point to increase agricultural output, he said.

IC leaders are currently lining up tenants and potential private-industry research partners. Duncan said IC is negotiating with "a handful of companies" to partner at the site, companies that would likely build their own offices and research facilities. He said he couldn't divulge which companies they are.

An emphasis of IC, as it works with the private sector, is developing startup companies, some of which could be spinoff businesses from university or graduate student research.

Already, the Industrial Arts building on the campus will be redone and expanded to include state-of-art greenhouses.