By Lauren Huet WDEL
Entrepreneurs and officials celebrated the grand opening of Delaware Technology Park’s new laboratory incubator on the University of Delaware’s STAR campus Friday.
The DTP expansion, named DTP@STAR, is aimed at creating jobs and innovation in Delaware.
The U.S. Department of Commerce, through the Economic Development Administration, is investing $500,000 over the next three years into DTP@STAR.
“It means a lot because it helps defer some of the operating costs of the shared services that makes the rent a little bit lower for the people that are here,” said DTP President Mike Bowman.
STF Technologies is renting one of the new labs in the incubator.
“This is really a critical part of the innovation infrastructure in Delaware. I’ve spoken to a few other entrepreneurs who have succeeded in the past, and space is always a bottleneck that keeps coming up,” said co-founder of STF Technologies, Richard Dombrowski.
Dombrowski said the new space makes a difference.
“This space is awesome–it’s twice as much space as we had previously.”
DTP@STAR was designed to address the needs of early stage entrepreneurs and includes access to the University of Delaware’s assets, faculty, and students.
“We have excellent access to the School of Biomechanics–with whom we partner on some of our projects. Excellent access to the university’s expertise, and laboratories, and equipment that lets us leverage all of the capabilities and knowledge of the university to really achieve our goal of growing the company, creating jobs, and ultimately being successful in commercializing these technologies,” said Dombrowski.
“They rent their lab space to their purpose,” said Bowman. “They own their intellectual property. They buy their own equipment, but the labs generally service what they need with hoods, and gases, and waters, and so forth to run their business.”
Bowman said the purpose of the incubator is a get started lab.
“Wet labs are very hard to find. They’re very expensive,” said Bowman. “So, there’s none on the market. Nobody speculates investing in wet labs. We did it with the hope that we could find, and we thought we could, and did, high technology companies that needed just the amount of space to get started and willing to share what we call shared services. So, there are certain labs here that everybody uses that reduce the cost.”
He said DTP@STAR is creating jobs and innovation. The new space is already at capacity.
“When we put together the loan application and the federal grant application, we thought in a few years we would have 50 people in it, because that’s about the limit of it. We are opening the doors with 61 employees here and about 40 students.”
He said DTP’s original campus has been very successful.
“So, over the years we’ve created about 85 brand new companies, 16,000 jobs, over the course of the last 20 years. There’s no reason this won’t do the same thing,” said Bowman. “We call this DTP@STAR, because we’re operating like it’s Delaware Technology Park extension. We’re full at Delaware Technology Park. This is the only way we could continue to grow.”
A new space for companies like STF Technologies to innovate; the company is developing puncture resistant surgical gloves for doctors, puncture resistant industrial gloves for construction and industrial workers, and new space suit materials.
The company received a NASA grant and is partnering with NASA to develop the new space suit materials.
“Things we need to address to meet the challenges of a mission to Mars. There are a lot of potential hazards of surface operations on Mars,” said Dombrowski. “I have in a little vial here some simulated Mars dust. The problem is this gets on the suit, and all the other materials that they have, and it’s a contaminant, but it’s also abrasive. So, when it gets in the suit it works its way in. It will grind down the fabric and eventually what you’ll get is a hole in the suit. Which is pretty undesirable if you’re on the surface of Mars.”
The company has been testing new materials and shot a small aluminum sphere at the material at 22,000 miles per hour.
“It gets caught on the STF Kevlar layer,” said Dombrowski. “So, what happens when this projectile hits it actually melts, and or vaporizes, and our material catches it. Go to the bladder and if you look at the backside of the bladder the rubberized coating is still intact–meaning that the barrier that keeps the air into your suit is still intact, which is really the critical piece.”
Dombrowski said he and the other business owners are excited to work in the new lab incubator.
“Thank you to the people who have supported making this lab happen. It’s really a critical piece of the innovation infrastructure in Delaware, and it’s going to really accelerate some things going forward,” said Dombrowski.