Incubator inclusion: Research Park, Innovation Park looking at collaboration

The Research Park Corporation, LSU and the Baton Rouge Area Chamber have retained local consulting firm Emergent Method to study ways the RPC and LSU’s Innovation Park can work together more closely in an effort to create a better “entrepreneurial ecosystem” in Baton Rouge.

All three entities are splitting the cost of the study, which was the brainchild of the RPC. Though it’s too soon to talk about any findings or recommendations, the fact that the RPC and LSU are even talking about collaborating is significant.

The RPC’s Louisiana Technology Park, which is located in the Bon Carre Business Center, and LSU’s Innovation Park, home to the Louisiana Business and Technology Center, were one-time rivals that in recent years have begun to work together on a small scale. But the market’s entrepreneurial ecosystem remains fragmented and still lacks basic entrepreneurial infrastructure like an angel investor network.

“This study is something we really should do,” says Charlie D’Agostino, the retiring executive director of Innovation Park and founding executive director of the LBTC. “We have a good working relationship but we want to solidify it and work more closely.”

In addition to the tech park, the RPC owns two related entrepreneurial organizations at Bon Carre—Nexus LA, a business accelerator, and Innovation Catalyst, which provides seed capital to small startups. LSU’s Innovation Park, meanwhile, is a research park that is home not only to the LBTC but also the LSU Student Incubator, LSU AgCenter Food Incubator, the Pennington BioTech Incubator, a prototyping center and the university’s technology transfer office.

Given the various entities under the two roofs, Emergent Method principals say they believe there is plenty of potential for greater collaboration.

“The focus of the study is to develop recommendations for increased collaboration, greater efficiency and utilization of available resources and improved outcomes,” says Emergent Method’s Julie Laperouse.

The study came about several months ago at the suggestion of the RPC and is being funded by all three entities. Laperouse says it’s too soon to talk about any potential findings or suggestions.

However, as part of the study, both organizations are willing to consider options for changes to programs and governance.

“At the end of the day, the focus of the study is on ensuring the ecosystem is structured in a way that promotes as much entrepreneurial activity as possible in our area,” she says.

The study is underway as D’Agostino, who founded the LBTC in 1988 and lead Innovation Park since its creation in 2005, is preparing to retire at the end of the year. He will be succeeded by David Winwood, currently an executive director at  Pennington Biomedical Research Center.

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