I had a chance to stop by the office of the Delaware Innovation Space in the DuPont Experimental Station.
Actually, you don’t stop by the Experimental Station. It’s by appointment only, with your name forwarded to the visitors check-in center.
Once your credentials (driver’s license) are checked, you drive through the complex, which is a giant construction zone these days.
That’s good news. DowDuPont chief Ed Breen gave the OK to spenda couple of hundred million dollars in a badly needed upgrade to a site that has long been praised as a textbook example of American innovation. Of late, the work is becoming visible from Route 141
For its part, Delaware Innovation Space, a DuPont, University of Delaware and state effort, is spending $6 million at the newest building on the site for labs and related space.
The project fills a void in Delaware that cannot be addressed through office space. While companies like Rodel (now Dow) and W.L. Gore are said to have gotten their start in homes, science-based start-ups these days generally need lab space and in many cases sophisticated equipment.
Mike Rinkunas, director of acceleration & client development at Innovation Space, says you can’t run a science-based business “out of a Starbucks.”
Delaware Innovation Space has kepta low profile since going into operation in 2017 but is already making a difference in providing a home for young science-based businesses.
William Provine, who heads Delaware Innovation Space, says about 200 people now work at the site. The roster of companies includes agriscience and hydrogen fuel businesses.
Provine, a former DuPonter, says the common perception about Innovation Space being a tied to cutbacks at DuPont, is not entirely accurate.
DuPont had been looking for ways to tap entrepreneurial energy in bringing products to market. The company was already moving toward an Innovation Space concept in partnership with the University of Delaware.
Over the years, DuPont has struggled with the reality that the old model of research and development was no longer working. In short, no Kevlars or nylons were on the horizon.
The decision to eliminate 1,700 jobs, many in research, came about at about the same time as the Innovation Space was becoming a reality, but was not directly tied to the cutbacks.
Provine said the situation did result in a “perfect storm” that brought attention to the need for the Innovation Space. Former DuPonters are working at the site, as well as the young companies from outside its orbit.
The Innovation Space will serve as an incubator as well as an accelerator, he noted. It will not become a permanent home for companies.
With the completion of construction, further announcements are on tap for Delaware Innovation Space that will add more positive news for the state’s economy, Provine and Rinkunas noted.
Armed with the “hall pass” (the sheet that the organization has to fill out when visitors stop by) I handed the materials to the guard and headed back to the office.
I left feeling better about the future of the science-based economy in Delaware. – Doug Rainey, chief content officer.