Steve Nakagawa, program director for the Florida High Tech Corridor, provided an overview of the Florida High Tech Corridor at the MetaCenter Global Week conference in Orlando, Florida, Oct. 18.

“The Corridor is about creating innovation by leveraging high-tech industry, high-tech minds, and the entire ecosystem for innovation across 23 counties,” Nakagawa said.

The Florida High Tech Corridor was born in 1996 across Central Florida to help industry find researchers they needed to conduct necessary applied research, find university professors and students interested in doing that research, and performing the required matchmaking.

“For that matchmaking, you need to learn industry needs, build trust and a collaborative spirit, figure out the capabilities of the researchers, and then you match them up,” Nakagawa said.

Geographically speaking, the Florida High Tech Corridor consists of 23 counties where three of the country’s largest research institutions – the University of Central Florida (UCF), the University of South Florida (USF) and the University of Florida (UF) – are located. He said those university presidents are The Corridor’s “bosses” to whom Paul Sohl, the Florida High Tech Corridor CEO, reports, and leveraging the power of those research universities builds economic prosperity in multiple ways.

“A few of the many ways we serve entrepreneurs and innovators,” Nakagawa said, “are applied research, clustering initiatives, small business innovation, and funding support.”

According to figures he presented, The Corridor’s investment portfolio represents $3.4 million in investments in the last fiscal year for 44 research collaborations with 33 industry partners, and 13 Small Business Innovation Research/Small Business Technology Transfer (SBIR/STTR) projects supported with matching funds. Additionally, the program supported 187 student researchers.

“In those students, you’re developing some community ‘partnershipping’ with them as well, and they start to understand some critical things,” Nakagawa said.

He explained that The Corridor provides grant support, cohorts, webinars, and guides that help businesses across Florida (not just those within the 23 counties) to submit SBIR/STTR grant requests. The Corridor also collaborates with other entities that support SBIR and STTR like the UCF Incubator Program, among other partners.

“An area where we get a lot of feedback from the entrepreneurs we support, is in SBIR/STTR support and any grant request efforts – especially government grants,” Nakagawa said. “[Government grants] are a very different world.”

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