Nebraska Innovation Campus
Nebraska Innovation Campus is an extension of the University of Nebraska - Lincoln, dedicated to research, sustainability and private business. It is built on the former Nebraska State Fair grounds, and still uses some buildings from the State Fair. The 4-H building from the old fairgrounds has been renovated, and now houses Innovation Commons, including a state-of-the-art auditorium that seats 400.
Development of the campus began in 2013, and is slated to be completed by 2038. The campus leases space to both private businesses and the university. Innovation Campus has partnered with a diverse variety of businesses, ranging from e-commerce company Spreetail to Virtual Incision Corp., which works to develop advanced, miniature robots used for surgery. These companies also provide employment opportunities such as internships for UNL students. In fact, Innovation Campus officials look to see which companies provide the most UNL students with jobs and internships when deciding to lease space.
Innovation Campus is looking to strengthen relationships between the university and the private sector. The Food Science Department, for example, has a number of partnerships with private sector businesses, and these partnerships are making strides in areas like food sanitation. Food, fuel, and water in particular are strong industry links to the university. NIC is hoping to attract start-up businesses in order to help them develop innovative products and expand. Much like the rest of the University of Nebraska, Innovation Campus hopes to be an economic driver for the state of Nebraska and a center of commerce for Lincoln.
UNL offers a number of student services on Innovation Campus, which houses the Food Science Department. University faculty utilize Innovation Studio for instruction, where students can work with 3D printers, ceramics, woodworking machinery and a wide array of advanced technology. Students can get involved with research and professional development at places like the Industry Relations Department and the Water for Food Daugherty Global Institute located at Innovation Campus. Students attend classes, conduct research and use technology on the campus, making it a buzzing hub of learning and creativity.
Construction of Innovation Campus is in Phase 1, at approximately 380,000 square feet of the planned 2.2 million square feet by 2038. The campus is currently 92% leased and development is ahead of schedule. The long-term goal is to have ⅔ of the campus occupied by private businesses and ⅓ by university entities. Phase 2 looks to expand beyond infrastructure and the basics of the campus, and develop more buildings east of where the campus currently stands. Sustainability and environmental impact are key values to the development of the campus. For example, Innovation Campus runs city water through heat exchangers and circulates the water through campus to heat and cool buildings, in order to reduce energy costs and waste.
The campus is constantly expanding through its partnership with Tetrad Property Group. Tetrad owns, develops, builds, and manages all new buildings on campus. The property group has invested nearly $90 million on development for Innovation Campus so far. In March, early construction work began on a three-story, 80,000 square foot building on the campus, which is estimated to cost approximately $18 million. Although there are no current plans for academic use of the new building, Tetrad will be responsible for finding tenants. Nebraska Innovation Campus is far from finished, but one thing is certain: It will be a catalyst for change and innovation for some time to come.
NIC Innovation Studio
The Nebraska Innovation Studio is a space where all are invited to work on DIY projects. It is a membership based studio that offers access to specialized equipment and classes for all skill levels. Woodworking, ceramics, and screen printing equipment along with 3D printers are just a few of the notable tools offered at Innovation Studio.
Innovation Studio's philosophy is to learn through making. Members are welcome to use the space to collaborate with others, improve their business ideas and designs, and to have fun.
Tours are scheduled regularly and are lead by staff at Innovation Studio. To book a tour visit: http://innovationstudio-manager.unl.edu/tours/
For now, enjoy a virtual tour lead by Innovation Studio Director Brett Kennedy.
- Monday and Tuesday: 2 pm - 9 pm
- Wednesday and Thursday: Noon - 7 pm
- Friday: Noon - 4 pm
From the outside, the Nebraska Innovation Campus Greenhouse appears to be just like any other greenhouse. Looking at it, one would expect row after row of the exact same plant; with glaring yellow lights that make the room appear perpetually midday. However, the Greenhouse center at the Innovation Campus defies these expectations.
What seems to be a fairly average greenhouse from the outside, is actually a state-of-the-art research facility, utilizing technology unheard of in “ordinary” greenhouses. Instead of the tightly-packed rows of dirt, housing equally spaced rows of plant; the NIC Greenhouse places their plants on a conveyor belt. This allows the automated system to send the plants through to any experiment the researchers are tasked with performing.
Currently, the plant being studied is sorghum. This is a grain plant that is known for being extremely efficient when it comes to converting solar energy into energy that is usable for the plant’s survival. Because of this, sorghum is very well adapted to surviving, even in arid regions, where heat and drought would prevent other plants from thriving. In a recent experiment, the sorghum was sent through a 3 meters tall and 3 meters wide chamber, where electromagnetic waves of varying wavelengths were shot at the plant. None were of a wavelength that would harm the plants, instead the specific range of wavelengths would be used to gather images and data of the plants in an extremely precise way.
This is just one of the vital plant studies that are conducted year-round at the Nebraska Innovation Campus Greenhouse. In addition to scientific research, private companies are also able to hire the Greenhouse’s services—giving Nebraska businesses access to the state-of-the-art facility in order to conduct private studies. Overall, the Greenhouse serves as a vital center of science and once construction is complete, it will stretch a whopping 60,000ft.