Fall 2020 marks five years since the opening of the University of Nevada, Reno’s Innevation Center. The downtown Reno co-working environment provides startups and entrepreneurs with resources and connections, and provides a catalyst for accelerating regional innovation with the ultimate objective of spurring economic growth, jobs and investment.
The accomplishments over the past five years are significant:
- 370 jobs have been created by Innevation Center companies and organizations.
- $88 million in private or venture capital funding has been raised by Innevation Center companies.
From Day One
Rather than a traditional ribbon-cutting, a laser-cutting marked the formal opening of the Innevation Center in September 2015. As a packed room of guests looked on, the laser cutter from the facility’s Makerspace cut out an intricate image of the Innevation Center logo.
“What a proud moment,” said then-Governor and today-University President Brian Sandoval. “We will look back and say this was the beginning of something really big. This new building is symbolic of the new Nevada and the emergence of the University and the emergence of a new economy for Nevada.”
Rob Roy, founder of Switch, a world leader in data-center development and operations, was on hand to commemorate his company’s support of the project. Switch funded the initial interior build-out of the Innevation Center and also suggested the name which takes the “no” out of innovation.
“A spirit of collaboration was set that first day and it has continued,” said Heidi Gansert, the University’s executive director of external affairs. “The Innevation Center brings people, organizations and resources together. It has served and continues to serve as a critical piece of infrastructure to advance economic diversification in our region.”
“When you think about it, the Innevation Center was a startup venture itself. It was an experiment,” said Mridul Gautam, the University’s vice president for research and innovation, said. “We had to make it a welcoming place.”
Even now, with COVID-19 precautions in place and the building open to the public by appointment only, the Innevation Center remains a hub of activity and collaboration. As of summer 2020, the Innevation Center had 68 active, member companies and organizations representing 242 individual members.
In addition to the members, nearly 20 entrepreneurial organizations, economic development organizations and businesses actively work with the Innevation Center as partners or sponsors. Pre-COVID-19, the Innevation Center hosted public events as a service to the entrepreneurial community, including the weekly 1 Million Cups and the StartUp NV pitch day. Several companies have office space in the Innevation Center, and it is home to the Reynolds School of Journalism Podcast Center and Nevada Industry Excellence. The InNEVator, an eight-week, fully funded business accelerator program launched by the Innevation Center in 2017, has supported the development of 13 technology startups through four rounds of the program.
“The Innevation Center team has been very deliberate in making the Innevation Center into an open, inclusive space where anyone can take advantage of its trainings and services,” said Ellen Purpus, assistant vice president for enterprise and innovation. “In addition, we owe a debt of gratitude to the Reno entrepreneurial community. They have fully embraced us and helped ensure that our experiment would work.”
Staying in beta mode
“I want (the Innevation Center) to continue to be in beta mode, always changing, analyzing, improving, keeping up with the times,” said Gautam.
“We have to continue being a hub and a magnet that attracts creatives, entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, technical experts and our faculty and students,” said Gautam. “We want to be the place where early-stage companies come not just to be there, but to be there because they want to grow, they want to push.”
Director Grace Chou, who joined the Innevation Center in 2019 from the Governor’s Office of Economic Development where she was director for manufacturing and technology, sees a number of future priorities including more strongly connecting to the people and resources of the University, further developing usage and awareness of the Makerspace, enhancing resources and opportunities to increase market access for entrepreneurs, and exploring new funding and partnership opportunities.
An additional focus for Chou and her team is responding and adapting to the evolution of workspaces in this time of pandemic. A webinar series was launched this summer to connect members and the community online and to provide a forum to discuss emerging technologies and issues related to innovation and entrepreneurship.
The Innevation Center is open to the community through a membership model. Its daily operations are supported, in part, by the Knowledge Fund which is facilitated through the Governor’s Office of Economic Development. For more information visit the Innevation Center’s website.
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The University of Nevada, Reno is a public research university committed to the promise of a future powered by knowledge. Founded in 1874 as Nevada’s land-grant university, the University serves nearly 22,000 students. The University is a comprehensive doctoral university, classified as an R1 institution with very high research activity by the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education. More than $800 million has been invested campus wide in advanced laboratories, residence halls and facilities since 2009. It is home to the University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine and is part of the Nevada System of Higher Education. For more information, visit www.unr.edu.