Reaching for the STARs
The executive director of Texas State’s new Science, Technology and Advanced Research (STAR) Park discusses goals for the innovative facility.
Stephen Frayser came to Texas State on November 5, 2012, just four days before the university opened STAR One, the first building in a 38-acre research park about five miles from the main campus. STAR One is a 20,000-square-foot facility that will serve as a technology incubator for early stage businesses and as collaboration space for joint research and development with industry.
Although Frayser is new to Texas, he is a veteran research park manager. He came to San Marcos from the Nebraska Technology Park, where he had served as president since 2003. During his tenure, 2,400 jobs were created or retained, more than 300,000 square feet of new facilities were built and more than $68 million in new capital investments were made.
Frayser recently sat down in the newly completed STAR One building to answer some questions about Texas State’s new research park.
What are the goals for the STAR Park?
A research park creates an environment that fosters commercialization and entrepreneurship. We've got a long- range view of the world. Our goal is to create new opportunities and new companies. We want to see the university more engaged in these activities that are added to its traditional mission of research and education.
What is the focus for STAR One?
STAR One is both a business incubator and a collaboration space. Phase I of the building is focused on materials sciences. Our initial facilities are built as chemical labs, clean rooms and supporting service areas.
What kind of resources do you offer STAR Park partners?
The Austin–San Antonio region has a current shortage of laboratory space for early stage companies and collaborative efforts. We are partially addressing that need; however, as an incubator the facility is only part of the picture. We will also provide firms with access to business mentors, specialized service providers, sources of capital, specialized instruments and equipment as well as our faculty and students. Less tangible but very real is the benefit of being identified as a resident of a technology incubator located in a university-affiliated research park.
What type of partners are you looking for?
We’re looking for high growth opportunity companies that can create scalable companies, higher skill job opportunities and higher wages. Creating a research park and business incubator is one important strategy for growing and diversifying a region’s economy while providing exciting career opportunities for our graduates.
We can also act as a place for a mature company or outside organization to interact with the University on joint R&D activities. By having access to our specialized research centers and faculty, companies are able to develop new products or processes in a timely and cost effective manner. Most small to midsized firms lack sophisticated equipment and instruments dedicated to R&D, which constrains their ability to compete in an innovation-driven economy.
When will additional buildings be added to the park?
Realistically it's going to be three years before we build the next building. We are engaged in a long-term change process. While STAR Park has a real estate component it is not driven by the need to obtain a short-term gain on a real estate investment. Over time, we will generate a critical mass of firms engaged in technology-focused activities who will become the next generation of companies occupying multi-tenant or even single tenant facilities.
Why did you decide to come to Texas State?
Texas State University is an institution that is experiencing rapid growth. Change is a part of the culture that creates new opportunities to explore alternative approaches to accomplishing our mission. Being located in the Austin Metropolitan Area and adjacent to San Antonio we have an area of approximately 3.5 million people. Both cities continue to be ranked among the top 10 in the nation for growth, which translates into greater access to skilled labor, suppliers, business resources and an enriched quality of life.
How do you see events unfolding here at the STAR Park?
It is often discussed that universities are going to be the engines that drive regional economies. The important thing to understand is that a university is part of an environment. The areas that are going to succeed in the future will be those with access to institutions of higher education that understand a cross-disciplinary approach to educating our future workforce is essential. With the new Ph.D. program in material science, engineering and commercialization, Texas State University is moving in that direction. We are training the future managers and entrepreneurs who will bring new products and processes to the market by translating basic research into relevant applications.