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Published: Tuesday, 1/22/2008

UT engineering college receives $1.5M gift


The University of Toledo has received a $1.5 million gift that will help make its plans for a second incubator for start-up businesses a reality.

Norman Nitschke, a longtime supporter of the university and its college of engineering, recently gave the money to help with UT's matching contribution requirement for the technology commercialization center.

"This looked like a way to push the thing along," said Mr. Nitschke, who previously contributed $1.75 million to UT's engineering building and auditorium, which opened in 1995 and bears his name.

Mr. Nitschke is a retired glass engineer and co-founder of Glasstech Inc.

UT received $2 million from the U.S. Department of Commerce's Economic Development Administration for the construction of the planned 40,000-square-foot, two-story incubation building.

State and local funds were required to match the federal money for the $4 million project, which should be completed and ready for occupancy next year.

Mr. Nitschke said the commercialization center, a term he prefers over incubator, will help show the progress of the college and attract quality faculty for endowed chairs in the engineering college, the addition of which is being discussed.

He also said he's excited about the collaboration between faculty and students and the business community.

"If you've got people in this part of the area who have had UT students work for them in the summertime or the co-op program and they have a project and look at a place to further research it, why wouldn't they want to do that here?" Mr. Nitschke said.

Nagi Naganathan, dean of the engineering college, said that's the university's goal. "We want to locate it in such a way that our students and faculty as well as the community can experience a seamless transfer of research, education, and commercialization," he said.

The incubator is planned to be located between the engineering college and UT's Clean and Alternative Energy Incubation Center near Dorr Street and Westwood Avenue.

This second incubator is intended to be a mixed-use facility for businesses of all types, Mr. Naganathan said.

While many of the users of the incubator will work closely with the nearby engineering college, the university hopes for a range of businesses working with the physical sciences resources on the main campus, said Frank Calzonetti, UT vice president for research development.

UT is working to attract health-science related businesses near the health sciences campus that would work with faculty and staff there and at the UT Medical Center, the former Medical College of Ohio, Mr. Calzonetti said.

The incubators are part of the overall UT Science and Technology Corridor project.

The hope is when the businesses graduate from the incubation centers to their own free-standing facilities, they will remain in the same area, he said. "The idea is to create high-paying technical jobs in and around the campus of Toledo and in the city of Toledo." Mr. Calzonetti said.

Contact Meghan Gilbert at: mgilbert@theblade.com or 419-724-6134.

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