UConn’s new tech park signals pragmatism

The University of Connecticut broke new ground on October 14 to commence the construction of a new Technology Park to be built on the university’s North Campus. At the center of this new construction project will be the Innovation Partnership Building (IPB), a 113,000 square-foot, multi-level facility. The project will cost $183.5 million, $80 million promised from corporations – including United Technologies Corp., Pratt & Whitney, Comcast and General Electric.

According to a Daily Campus report earlier this week, a state bond is sponsoring the $100 million building, while $30 million will go to roads and various improvements and $40 million to research equipment. The Tech Park will provide great opportunity for STEM fields, and will be beneficial to students, assuming it is properly implemented.

The university taking a public-private partnership approach for this project already adds value for students. In addition to some of the cost burden being taken off of taxpayers with the investment from businesses, having business involvement can create value for students seeking jobs with these companies. Businesses being able to utilize facilities they otherwise would not have access to will also allow UConn to boost the state’s economy, assuming businesses use the Tech Park as an opportunity to hire and expand. The Tech Park also should boost UConn’s reputation and notoriety as a research institution, potentially increasing the value of degrees for STEM graduates.

However, one area of concern is who exactly will be benefitting from the project. Paul Ferri, an environmental professional at UConn who works as a senior compliance analyst, told The Daily Campus, “I think (the park) is mostly for graduate level and above students and professors, but it will have a trickle-down effect of benefit for the undergrads.”

While the park will certainly have indirect benefits for students that never set foot inside of it, there should be a strong effort to get undergraduates involved. Whether it is through undergraduates working with professors on research, or completing internships through the businesses involved in the project, having opportunities gives undergraduates unique experience and would allow the university to differentiate itself from opportunities offered by other universities and colleges.

The park is not set to be unveiled until 2017, but in that time the university should look at ways implement the facilities and work with businesses so as to maximize the opportunities available for all of the UConn community, including professors, graduate students, and undergraduates.