Grand Valley State University and The Right Place Inc. would each manage aspects of the SmartZone under contracts a city panel will consider this week. The two organizations submitted proposals in response to a February 2012 request for qualifications designed to create more “churn” and better ROI from life science companies in the SmartZone.
The new management structure would modernize operations based on the changes that have occurred in Grand Rapids since the SmartZone was formed a decade ago.
“A lot has changed in 10 years, especially in the SmartZone district and the need for partners and the need for entrepreneurial support,” said Kara Wood, director of economic development for the City of Grand Rapids. “We are hoping for significantly more outcomes.”
Under term sheets approved by the city’s Local Development Finance Authority, GVSU’s Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation would form a nonprofit to manage day-to-day activities of the SmartZone, including the life sciences business incubator housed at the Cook-DeVos Center for Health Sciences that’s currently managed by the West Michigan Science & Technology Initiative.
The nonprofit would also establish a virtual incubator to support entrepreneurs in other sectors who locate within the SmartZone, plus a technology transfer network to commercialize intellectual property. The virtual incubator will allow the SmartZone to serve startups that don’t need the high-end laboratory space, Wood said.
The Right Place would continue to handle marketing and promotion of the SmartZone. That includes representing Grand Rapids at four national and international trade shows, reconvening and re-energizing the West Michigan Medical Device Consortium, and developing a local event on innovation.
The Local Development Finance Authority approved term sheets with both organizations and may finalize contracts when it meets again Sept. 21. The new management structure would take effect immediately, Wood said.