CRANE - WestGate and Crane have been partners in development since day one for the tri-county tech park. Now, after a decade of discussions Purdue University has agreed to become part of the operations just outside of the Navy base's south gate.
Purdue will be setting up an operation at the WestGate Academy where it will offer services ranging from operating a business incubator to providing educational opportunities.
"This is a game changer," said Daviess County Economic Development Corp. Executive Director Ron Arnold. "They are bringing all of the support services Purdue currently offers at West Lafayette and now it's going to be in the southern part of the state."
Purdue, Crane and WestGate will combine their strengths to advance educational, research and development, and technology commercialization across Indiana and elsewhere. The agreement will bring educational opportunities from Purdue's Krannert School of Management and Purdue Polytechnic Institute to the WestGate Academy.
The University will also provide business start-up assistance through the "Purdue Foundry," increased tech transfer support from the Purdue Office of Technology Commercialization.
"The collaboration with WestGate established a valuable asset adjacent to the world-renowned Crane facility from which many Indiana residents can benefit," said Purdue University President Mitch Daniels. "Combining the vast strengths of WestGate, Crane and other outstanding economic entities in Southern Indiana with Purdue's education, tech transfer and startup creation programs will provide many immediate and long-term educational and economic opportunities for people in the entire region."
For the last several years state, regional and local development officials have been trying to find ways to bring many of the patents for technology held by the Navy at Crane out of the base and into the hands of private business for commercial development. One place already doing that is the Battery Innovation Center located in the Tech Park. The agreement with Purdue is designed to open the way for the commercialization of the Crane patents and more.
"Not only the patents that Crane has, but also the patents Purdue holds where they don't have enough entrepreneurs or businesses to pursue them," said Arnold. "They are basically going to make it easy to tap into both Crane's and Purdue's intellectual property."
A lot of that will come from Purdue staffers located in the WestGate Academy who will be working in conjunction with the Purdue Foundry. The Foundry is part of a business start-up and entrepreneur program. The college will provide intellectual property support and a WestGate Express License to quickly convert Crane and Purdue intellectual property to commercial use. There will also be entrepreneurs in residence to help with startups, and other services that help get new businesses started.
"Our footprint at this site is already strong, but bringing the full compendium of what we do in West Lafayette will do much to increase commercialization and startup creation," said Greg Deason, senior Vice President of Purdue Research Foundation and director of innovation and commercialization for the Burton D. Morgan Center for Entrepreneurship in Purdue University's Discovery Park. "In addition to the programming we plan to provide, we will establish popular networking events like our Foundry Grounds and Spirited Entrepreneur to the area. We believe the collaboration between Purdue and WestGate can move the economic needle for the whole region."
While Purdue may be taking the lead, other collaborations are being established with other colleges in the programs at WestGate.
"Indiana will be pleased to partner with our Purdue colleagues at WestGate, as we both recognize the importance of our state's two public research universities working together to support education, research, economic development and related technology commercialization efforts in the region," said IU Vice President for Engagement Bill Stephan. "Moreover, we look forward to establishing an Indiana University office at WestGate to more effectively and regularly engage with our colleagues and partners."
For officials with the WestGate Authority and NWSC Crane the agreement is a long-awaited positive movement that is expected to enhance both the base and the tech park.
"This agreement enhances our outreach opportunities to a much higher level and enables us to offer a fully embedded ecosystem of technology education, innovation and commercialization for WestGate@Crane," said WestGate Authority President John Mensch. "We are very excited to have Purdue take a bigger role at WestGate and look forward to collaborating with them while continuing to offer the great amenities and opportunities to our community and other partners."
"We have worked in partnership with the Purdue Office of Technology Commercialization for the past three years with strong success in our technology commercialization areas," said Capt. J.T. Elder, Commanding Officer of NWSC Crane. "Having Purdue establish a physical presence in our area will increase our collaborations in these activities and across the broader innovation eco-system."
Officials are planning a kick off event on July 24 at the WestGate Academy. While the short-term plan is to get business, technology, and education to work together to develop opportunities by taking ideas developed at Purdue and Crane and putting them into the civilian market, the long-term goal is to make the area a hot bed for homegrown businesses that will bring high-paying jobs into the tech park, the region, and the state.
"The long game is to establish a presence of technology related to businesses in this area with higher paying jobs," said Arnold. "It then becomes an attraction making the area one that people want to move to. It really could be a game changer for the entire region when it fully matures."