|UND graduate tapped as director of Research Enterprise and Commercialization Park|
Kevin Cooper, a native North Dakotan with an extensive background in economic development and a University of North Dakota graduate, has been named the first director of the UND Research Foundation’s Research Enterprise and Commercialization Park.
The UND Research Foundation (UNDRF) is an independent organization dedicated to supporting the research mission at the University. It is the developer of the $12 million, 50,000-square-foot research building which will house the Center for Life Sciences and Advanced Technologies. The building will anchor the UNDRF’s 19.5 acre Research Enterprise and Commercialization Park.
“The hiring of a director is a key milestone in the development for the research building and the Research Enterprise and Commercialization Park. And we couldn't be happier than to have Kevin Cooper as our first director," said James Petell, UNDRF executive director. "Kevin comes to us with very strong credentials in economic development and jobs creation. We are looking forward to his leadership in these areas as the UND Research Foundation continues to grow."
“It is truly a privilege to have the chance to be a part of this project, which creates significant opportunities in so many different areas. I hope to be able to use my 15-plus years in economic development to accelerate the process of stimulating new life science and advanced technology business development," said Cooper, who since June 2005 has been executive director of the Anne Carlsen Center for Children Foundation in Jamestown, N.D. There the Portland, N.D.-area native was responsible for development strategy and management, and serving on the senior leadership team.
The funding for the position comes from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, which awarded UNDRF a $550,000, three-year grant to help put in place the operational infrastructure for the research facility. "We felt really good to be a part of an opportunity to play a role in helping Grand Forks grow," said Anne Corriston, Knight Foundation program director for Grand Forks, Aberdeen, S.D., and Wichita, Kan.
A 1993 UND graduate with a master of business administration and a graduate of Mayville State College with a bachelor of science in business administration, Cooper served five years as chief executive officer of the Jamestown/Stutsman Development Corporation in Jamestown. He developed and implemented strategies leading to growth of primary sector manufacturing, ag-processing, and national service industries. He also initiated a Manufacturers Roundtable, Ag Opportunity Day, and packaged financing for several business expansions and startups, and conducted recruitment activities resulting in location of three ventures. He played a prominent role in a major expansion of the Goodrich Corp.
He spent the another five years as executive director of Hazen Community Development in Hazen, N.D. There he led the start-up of a community economic development program and played a critical role in recruitment of four businesses and the start-up or expansion of 15 businesses. He also organized and promoted passage of a local sales tax to fund economic development, facilitated establishment of a high-value agriculture program, and developed innovative rural housing projects.
Cooper got his start in economic development as a marketing consultant at the UND Center for Innovation, where he spent three years conducting marketing/management audits for clients, preparing business and marketing plans, and coordinating the statewide outreach of the North Dakota SBIR (Small Business Innovation Research) program.
In his new role, Cooper will manage the UNDRF’s research building and Research Enterprise and Commercialization Park, located on the UND campus at the intersection of 42nd St. N. and DeMers Ave. The research building is designed as a home for UND research ventures partnering with outside companies that want to link their financial muscle with the University’s intellectual capital.
The building and the research park are intended to aid the commercialization of the intellectual property (IP) created across all of the colleges and schools of the University. UNDRF will also help engage the community and state to form partnerships and businesses that will lead to economic growth within the community and the state of North Dakota.
Petell also announced that Jim Melland, general manager with Surefoot Corporation, Grand Forks, is the new UNDRF chairman of the board. Melland has an extensive background in economic development. Other board members besides Melland and Petell (a non-voting member) include: David Coleal, president and COO, Cirrus Design of Duluth, Minn., and Grand Forks; Michael Devine, vice president for corporate development and operations manager, Alion Science & Technology, Mt. Arlington, N.J.; Bob Gallager, vice president for finance and operations (non-voting member); UNDRF scretary-treasurer John Jasper, president and CEO, SEI Information Technology, Oak Brook, Ill.; President Charles Kupchella (non-voting member); and John Langstaff, president & CEO, Cangene Corporation, Winnipeg.
Another announcement was an updated timeline for the research building, the home of the Center of Excellence for Life Sciences and Advanced Technologies. The Center, which received $3.5 million from Gov. John Hoeven’s Centers of Excellence for Economic Development program and $500,000 from the Grand Forks City Growth Fund, should be ready for occupancy in December 2007, said Petell.
The park is right on the western edge of campus. “Three things about that location make it valuable for our research park,” said Petell, UND director of technology transfer and commercialization and a former corporate research leader who has numerous patents to his credit. “First, it’s next to the UND central campus; second, it complements the Center for Innovation and Skalicky Tech Incubator on the same site; and third, it shows high tech being developed into a park-like setting complete with the hotel for business partners (with high-tech, multipurpose facilities nearby).”
The research park is an extension of the premise behind the creation of the research foundation.
“We asked ourselves how to take into the marketplace intellectual property developed at the University or in joint research relationships with corporate partners and, most importantly, keep it in North Dakota,” Petell said. “This type of facility would be unique in this area - there isn’t one now - and would facilitate the commercialization of IP. Further, by forming companies based in North Dakota, it provides tremendous career opportunities for students to remain in North Dakota in high-paying, high-tech corporate jobs rather than go out of state.”
Currently, six companies (Avianax, NovaDigm, Agragen, Prologic and Borders, Alion, Inc., and Ideal Aerosmith) representing four life sciences and advanced technologies clusters are designing research and office space that meet their needs. Most of the companies are coming from out of state to work with UND faculty on research projects or develop relationships for student intern programs. One of the life sciences company, Avianax, was jointly formed with UNDRF in North Dakota last year.
Petell said some of these partnerships would not have been possible without the Red River Research Cooridor established by U.S. Sen. Byron Dorgan. Petell praised Dorgran for his strong support of UND's reserach mission.
The research park multiplies opportunities, said Petell: “You get economic development for both Grand Forks and UND, including investment in research and in the new companies and new professional jobs to go with them.”