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TXST STAR Park spurs entrepreneurial innovation

Sunday, July 23, 2023

This is the third in a series of articles looking at industrial and academic innovation in greater San Marcos and Central Texas, for the Greater San Marcos Partnership's Innovation Summit.

Starting a new business, by definition, requires anticipating paying startup costs for buildings, employees and materials. These are linked necessarily to the broader need to identify financial and spatial resources to make the process less burdensome. For entrepreneurs, those are the costs that can hinder innovation.

Here in San Marcos, the Science, Technology and Advanced Research Park, an initiative of Texas State University, was established to address that problem.

The STAR Park, a 58acre site home to the 36,000-square-foot technology incubator space, STAR One, allows businesses to invest as partners with the university in a more wisely and sustained, managed growth, heading these companies in a less fearful and therefore more direct path to taking a commercial idea from the drawing board to real applications.

During the recent Innovation Summit, now in its 9th years, held in San Marcos, and sponsored by the Greater San Marcos Partnership, the impact of STAR Park, Texas State’s technology hub dedicated to research and commercialization efforts in South/Central Texas, was showcased.

“This event is more fitting than ever because we are at the epicenter of innovation,” Will Conley, interim executive director of GSMP, told the assemblage gathered at the city of San Marcos Conference Center, adjacent to Embassy Suites in San Marcos. “More than 30 major companies have selected Hays and Caldwell counties’ Innovation Corridor for new or expanded operations since the year 2020.”

Conley said that STAR Park is a “launching pad” for innovative discoveries, before introducing Dr. Jennifer Irvin, who wears many hats in connection to the park. Irvin is a chemistry and materials professor at TXST and is also the director of the Materials Application Research Center, as well as the interim executive director of the university’s STAR Park.

Star Park opened its facilities 10 years ago to be a catalyst in the region and an incubator for new and world-changing businesses.

Irvin said she would talk about the past, present and future of STAR Park.

“To bring small businesses into partnership with Texas State University in a variety of manners,” is the purpose of the park, she said. “Generally speaking, we work together to try to enhance the regional innovation ecosystem and to enhance the research enterprise at Texas State.”

Irvin said there are a number of ways the park works with the business community and on behalf of its own students. These include providing including experiential learning opportunities and internships for students.

For businesses, the park has secure wet lab and chemistry-facilitating space which Irvin said “is a rarity in Texas.” “We also offer the companies conference room and office space, as well as access to our state of the art research facilities and equipment at our main campus,” she said. She said there are 73 employees working with the eight companies currently associated with the park. Over the past decade, 18 TXST graduates have been hired through their internships and other opportunities associated with STAR Park, she said.

Irvin said the initial facility, with only 14,000 square feet, was opened in 2012. Then the park grew with a 6,000 square feet expansion, and in 2016, the university added a conference center. In 2017, the park grew again, going beyond the first building, STAR One, to add the Archive Research Center, which is an outgrowth of the university library.

Conley then introduced three speakers for the panel discussion portion of the event. Following introductory videos that illuminated just how their once fledgling and now expanding operations benefited from a park relationships, Stephen Drake, Ph.D, and CEO of IceWind, an industrial micro wind turbine based microgrid company; Tim Burbey, co-founder and president of Blueshift International Materials, a market leader in thermal protection systems for harsh environments within aerospace, defense and electronic devices; and Dr. Pravin Malla Shrestha, a microbiologist who is the chief scientific officer at Direct Diagnostics LLC, recalled the positive experiences formed by their relationships with STAR Park.

Each said that being at the park allowed them access to more than just facilities: it opened the door to meeting with professors and students, providing a sharing of information on a grander scale.

To learn more about how a new business may become part of the STAR Park family, contact Irvin at jennifer.irvin@txst. edu.

San Marcos Record

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P.O. Box 1109, San Marcos, TX 78666