Um Scraps Incubator Opts For Privatesector Ventures
Written by Jennifer Miller on July 27, 2000
By Jennifer Miller
University of Miami administrators have dropped a plan to build a high-tech incubator on campus, saying students majoring in information technology will be better trained by working with the private sector.
An incubator would have hatched high-tech startups and was to serve as a training ground for engineering students.
But after weighing its costs and services against community resources, officials say they decided in favor of using partnerships.
"We’re in the education business, not in the venture capital or incubator business," said M. Lewis Temares, dean of the UM College of Engineering. "If we can be the middle man and link students with someone who can provide a service better than we can, they will be better off."
Mr. Temares said incubators have always existed in engineering but the idea for a high-tech center took shape after students expressed the need for a facility to help them create and launch projects.
So far, he said, UM has established a partnership with Weston-based incubator Semtor Inc. Students can intern there this fall, he said.
"Semtor brings many facets to launch businesses to the table," said Harold Gubnitsky, company chairman & CEO. "We offer a facility with a communication infrastructure and help with business planning."
Mr. Gubnitsky says the company can get business models on-line in a rapid fashion. In addition, he said, students can benefit from building a network of alliance partners to cover accounting, legal and production needs, among others.
"This is an awesome opportunity for college students. In a semester they can see a company, starting from ground zero, move up in phases," Mr. Gubnitsky said. "Working with UM and sharing experiences with students is a win-win situation for the local community as well as Semtor."
Launched this year, Semtor nurses four or five startup companies, Mr. Gubnitsky says. Its building has 9,000 square feet but will be expanded to 14,000, he said.
Mr. Gubnitsky says Semtor invested money at UM to bring interns and support the continuation of their projects.
Fred Jackson, a business development executive for IBM and chair for One Community One Goal’s Information Technology Telecom task force, said UM links between education and the information technology business is right on the money.
"It’s a great idea," he said. "One Community One Goal research projects identified the partnering of schools and businesses as essential toward facilitating South Florida as an information technology hub."
Mr. Jackson said schools such as Florida Atlantic University, Florida International University and Miami-Dade Community College all have clearly outlined initiatives to identify the right skills for the information technology curriculum.
Curtis Charles, chief information officer of Miami-based MIT Inc. and chair of One Community One Goal’s Business & Industrial Linkage Committee, said there needs to be more accord among university plans for information technology programs.
"Before they go to industrial firms for help, they need to work among themselves and present a united front to the private sector," Mr. Charles said. "I would like to see some level of information technology consortium among universities. We need to have a united front to be competitive with other regions and schools, such as Georgia Tech in Atlanta and MIT in Cambridge."
Mr. Curtis said the region also should focus on trade schools as a source of potential information technology employees, and create certification programs for them. Details: (954) 349-4240 or semtor.com; UM College of Engineering, (305) 284-2404.