These days, there's no shortage of new buildings on the University of Kansas' burgeoning west campus. But there's one building that stands out from the rest - one that looks less like your typical university structure and more like the type of building that would anchor a high-tech industrial park.
That outlier is the Bioscience & Technology Business Center (BTBC). It's one of the Midwest's most promising new business incubators, and it has corporate leaders nationwide adding Lawrence, Kan., to their short list of potential business sites.
"The BTBC at KU is more than just a business center," says Matthew McClorey, the incubator's executive director. "The BTBC is a system for building companies. We've created an entrepreneurial environment where software businesses, drug development companies, advanced manufacturing businesses, and information technology companies can access everything they need here in Lawrence. As a result, the BTBC is positioned to be a real economic development engine."
Recently, that engine has been in fifth gear. Since opening its doors last summer, the BTBC's 21,000-square-foot main facility has recruited six tenants, including navigational device titan Garmin. Other tenants include BrightEHR, an electronic health records company; Sunlite Science and Technology, a producer of specialty LED products; Propylon, a producer of software systems for state legislatures; 360 Energy Engineers, an engineering and energy management firm; and Nanopharm, a KU pharmaceuticals spin-off. It's a diverse roster of tenants, which McClorey says speaks to the BTBC's diversified strategy.
"The BTBC is not strictly a life sciences facility," he notes. "This is aimed at technology- and knowledge-based companies across various technology disciplines. It's not just for startups, but also for KU spin-offs, emerging high-growth technology businesses we recruit, and collaborations between large corporations and KU."
Wet Labs + Office Space
Like many incubators, the BTBC at KU offers tenants office space and business support services such as capital raising and consulting. But what truly distinguishes the BTBC from other incubators is the type of space it offers - a combination of office and state-of-the art wet lab space - and its direct physical access to KU research.
Before the BTBC, Lawrence didn't have many wet lab options for KU research-based spin-offs or emerging companies, which was a problem given the volume and quality of research being done at the university. The BTBC solved that problem immediately. And by being housed on the KU campus, tenants can collaborate with KU researchers, access university infrastructure, and even recruit students as interns or new hires.
"Companies want to be on campus because they want access to talent," McClorey says. "They want to hire people to grow their business, and they want to collaborate with world-class researchers. If you take this building off campus, it doesn't have the same appeal to industry and entrepreneurs."
In addition to the main facility on the KU campus, the BTBC network includes a second building in Lawrence and will formally dedicate a third building on the KU Medical Center campus in Kansas City, Kan., later this summer. The third building will make the BTBC the largest university-based incubator network in Kansas and among the largest in the Midwest.
"Sure, you can look at San Diego and Boston for incubator space and access to university resources," McClorey says. "But now you can also look directly between those two cities, right here in Kansas, for the same thing."