Nebraska Innovation Campus To Begin With Agriculture

By: Alicia Myers Email
By: Alicia Myers Email

As of the new year, Innovation Campus is one step closer to reality.

The University of Nebraska officially acquired the rights of the 251-acre State Fair Park property on January 1.

Construction will soon begin, offering a hub for research, capitalizing on growth, and the expertise of UNL faculty.

The first department set to benefit, deals with all things Nebraska.

"This is DNA isolation," said a UNL professor, as he worked on an experiment in one of the many cramped, aged labs on UNL's East Campus. There, faculty and students research the latest in agricultural sciences and natural resources.

Soon, these labs will be even better, as Nebraska Innovation Campus begins to bloom.

"It's exciting that the potential for the first building is one that is tied to agriculture and natural resources, which is so critical to the state of Nebraska," said Alan Moeller, Assistant Vice Chancellor for Finance and Personnel, Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

"Those are areas where we think we can be competitive with anyone. We think we can help build new businesses, create new jobs, and attract existing companies who want to partner with us," said J.B. Milliken, NU President.

Phase one of the transformation includes a single building for agriculture research service scientists, who work for the United States Department of Agriculture.

"This new facility offers the opportunity for ARS to conduct research in a few areas that are key to the profitability and sustainability of production in Nebraska, and in the surrounding high-plain states," said Moeller.

Across the way, a companion building will be built for the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

"The first area they'd be working in, is in the development of new crop species, and varieties for the region," said Moeller.

That would offer scientists a better facility to study areas like crops, switchgrass, soil quality and water, something that is important when it comes to the advancements available today.

"It used to be, that if you worked hard, you were successful in agriculture, but anymore, it's so complex, and is so global, that the problems are really a mess. So, it takes a very sophisticated research, and in turn, extension and education programs to bring all this to a point of benefiting the state and the region," said Moeller.

Also in phase one, is the update to the 4-H Building. It's a building that has been on the property for many years, and will continue to stay, remaining a centerpiece at Innovation Campus.

"It is a place where people will meet and greet, and there will be opportunities for incubation centers there, and opportunities for workshops and seminars," said Moeller.

"This is a great opportunity for the University to leverage its strengths in research and education, and play a lead role in helping to build an innovation economy," said Milliken.

One that benefits all of Nebraska.

Renovation on the 4-H building is set to cost nearly $24 million.

The Horseman's lease for the horse track remains until September 30, 2012. The Ice Box contract extends until 2031.

Until those dates arrive, those two areas will not be developed.


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