MERRILLVILLE | Tech startups can get a deep discount on office space at the Purdue Technology Center in Merrillville if they are commercializing patented innovations from any university in Indiana or Illinois.
Rent is half off.
The Purdue Research Foundation decided to extend a 50 percent discount for up to two years in the hope of spurring more high-tech entrepreneurship in Northwest Indiana. Foundation president Dan Hasler believes it is the first time a university-affiliated business incubator has offered such a deal to help entrepreneurs from any university in its geographical area.
Purdue decided to include Illinois universities because of how close Merrillville is to Chicago.
"We had a strategy session with stakeholders about what we can do to stimulate startup activity in the region, and make sure people knew the facility was there to cater to startups," he said. "Then we thought, 'Why should this just be about Purdue when a lot of good universities are nearby?' There's Notre Dame, Indiana University, the University of Chicago and Northwest University."
Currently, 33 companies — including Expedio Technologies, GO Technologies, and IdentityLogix LLC — lease space in the 60,000-square-foot incubator, which is part of the 386-acre AmeriPlex at the Crossroads business park.
The tech startup incubator currently is about half-full after opening in 2005.
"As Indiana's land-grant university, one of Purdue's goals is to support technology transfer activities and encourage entrepreneurs across the state to move university innovations to the public in an expedient and cost-effective way," Hasler said. "Indiana has more than 30 universities that are already doing this with great success, and Purdue already has a strong asset in Merrillville that gives us the opportunity to offer expanded services and space to help grow our entrepreneurial ecosystem in Northwest Indiana. Because of the close ties Northwest Indiana has to the Chicagoland area and the requests we have received from startups coming from that area, we are offering the same opportunity to startups commercializing patented technologies from Illinois institutions of higher education."
The move should help buoy the local entrepreneurial community because one of the biggest challenges startups have is bringing in cash, and the discounted office space lowers that burden, Hasler said. High-tech startups already save on overhead in incubators by sharing conference rooms, receptionists and office services.
Statewide, the Purdue Technology Center hosts nearly 260 companies that employ 4,500 people who earn an average wage of $63,000.
"We are working together to strengthen Northwest Indiana's economy and to support initiatives that create jobs," said U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky, D-Merrillville. "Our region's higher education network is one of our strongest resources to develop high-tech innovations, and I applaud Purdue University for taking this outstanding initiative to support entrepreneurs."