University of North Dakota Faculty/Staff Newsletter

Center for Innovation designated as “Soft Landings International Incubator”

The Center for Innovation's two technology incubators are designated as a "Soft Landings" International Incubator" by the National Business Incubation Association (NBIA). The Center for Innovation was one of first five incubators in the world to secure that designation in 2006, and there are 15 incubators out of 5,000 worldwide with that designation and certification. The other "Soft Landings incubators" are located in such places as Hong Kong, England, Australia, Finland, Belgium, France, San Jose, Baltimore, and Boston (list below)

The NBIA designation identifies incubators that provide a "Soft Landing" to international firms wishing to expand into new markets. The Center for Innovation has been assisting international clients since 1992, with the majority of its international clients coming from Norway, Canada and China.

International entrepreneurs are continuing to expand into global markets. These firms become a valuable part of the entrepreneur community that bring in business, adding to increases in revenue, taxes, jobs, wealth prestige and more. "Soft Landings incubators" help these entrepreneurs get a good start in a new market, accelerate their growth, and take some risk and hassle out of expansion. The NBIA "Soft Landings" designation lets foreign firms know that the world's leading organization advancing business incubation and entrepreneurship, NBIA, has identified these incubators as having specialized programs and facilities for helping ventures break into new markets.

"The 'Soft Landings' designation recognizes outstanding incubators that are capable of helping international firms enter into new domestic markets with entrepreneur services, help cut through governmental red tape, and provide demonstrated success in helping provide access to capital, domestic market research, and export entry strategies," said Randy Morris, NBIA's director of membership.

UND Center for Innovation director and entrepreneur coach Bruce Gjovig said, "The NBIA is the international trade association for business incubators. The 'Soft Landings' program recognizes incubators that are especially effective at helping foreign companies enter their domestic markets. The designation is effective for two years and the Center was among the first five in the world to be named a 'Soft Landings' Incubator when first earning the designation in 2006." A panel of NBIA-member incubator managers evaluated the applications. The Center has done several seminars and webinars for NBIA members worldwide on how to prepare and secure the designation.

"This designation lets international entrepreneurs know about our venturing expertise and our ability to provide a 'Soft Landing'." We have a proven track record of working with international clients and can offer that expertise as companies enter the U.S. market. This designation not only recognizes our expertise, but also sends a welcoming message to international entrepreneurs looking to call North Dakota home," Gjovig said.

Gjovig explains that one important benefit to international companies that locate in an incubator is the ability to grow into a presence on US soil without having to go through many of the capital-intensive acquisitions involved in opening a new location. The incubator offers turn-key office, server, communications and lab space for early stage ventures as well as entrepreneur assistance and the opportunity to be part of an entrepreneur community. Some clients also find that the Center's affiliation with the UND provides easy access to entrepreneur-minded students who are looking for internships, projects and employment. For many years, the Center has secured funding from the Norwegian and Canadian Consulates for students to work with entrepreneurs from those countries looking to expand into the U.S. market or find strategic partners in the United States.

Gjovig says he is honored and humbled that the Center for Innovation is among such a small number of incubators to receive the designation worldwide. Gjovig said NBIA reports there are over 5,000 business incubators worldwide and about 900 in the United States, up from just 12 in 1980. "It is good to be on the leading edge in globalizing incubator operations as more tech entrepreneurs find they need to enter international markets to capitalize on their opportunities," Gjovig said.

Gjovig says business incubators in several other countries have sent delegations to visit our campus incubators, including Canada, Norway, Sweden, Poland, China and Mexico.

The UND Center for Innovation works with innovators, entrepreneurs, researchers and students to launch new technologies and ventures, coach entrepreneurs in the startup and growth of ventures, and provide access to entrepreneur capital. The Center operates the Skalicky Tech Incubator and the Ina Mae Rude Entrepreneur Center in the UND Tech Park. The incubators host 22 ventures employing more than 130 people. The Center for Innovation was among the first entrepreneur outreach centers in the nation when it was formed 25 years ago in 1984. The Center has earned seven national awards for excellence in innovation and technology entrepreneurship. Since 2004, UND's Center for Innovation has been instrumental in the UND Department of Entrepreneurship being ranked in the top 1 percent of entrepreneur programs in the nation by Princeton Review and Entrepreneur Magazine. The Center for Innovation is a division of the UND College of Business and Public Administration.

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