Surrounded by some 4,500 acres more than 10 miles from downtown Lakeland, the university already was poised to grow. Now the Florida Board of Governors, which oversees Florida’s universities, has given its approval for a public-private partnership between Florida Polytechnic and International Flavors and Fragrances (IFF), a New York City-based firm operating in 47 countries.
The public-private agreement provides for the construction on campus of laboratory and creative space built with private funds. IFF is expected to provide internships and job opportunities as well as collaborating with faculty research, supporting academic programs and sponsoring capstone projects for seniors.
“It’s always tough to get that very first one [business],” says Dr. Randy K. Advent, the university’s president. “IFF is bold, very strategic. They understand the importance of a relationship with a tech university. They wanted to come in.”
University officials have also had some informal discussions with smaller companies that could jointly occupy a second building, he says.
Florida Polytechnic, which opened in 2014, is a 100 percent STEM-focused university dedicated to science, technology, engineering, and math. It ranked first in the South among public regional colleges for 2022, according to U.S. News and World Report.
International Flavors and Fragrances, which already operates in Lakeland and Winter Haven, according to its website, is an industry leader in food, beverage, scent, health, biosciences, and sensorial experiences.
It is interested in tech fields including microcontrollers, the technology surrounding agile manufacturing, machine learning and analytics, and virtual reality, Advent says.
The long-term vision for the research park calls for a town center with shops, restaurants, and residences. It would be an interactive community that is seamlessly integrated.
“We would tear the fences down,” Advent says. “We would all be working together.”
Ultimately, hard problems are solved by government, academia and industry together, because they “all own different parts of the problem,” he says.
The acreage dedicated to the park itself can vary based on its suitability for development, the market and timing, he says. The industrial portion probably will represent a broad mix.
While the Board of Governors approval in September marks that last step for the state, details of the building itself still need to be worked out between IFF and the university.
“It needs to be something that fits in with the campus [known for its iconic Innovation Science and Technology building designed by world-renowned Spanish architect Dr. Santiago Calatrava]. It can’t be a brick colonial building,” Advent points out.
A move-in date in 2023 is anticipated.
The community is expected to benefit as the university does.
“The more people that we have stay in Polk County,” he explains, “the better for the community.”
As the university grows, it is expected to serve as a magnet for businesses that want to hire its graduates.
“The goal of a tech university is that it becomes a magnet. It tends to attract tech industry in and around the area,” he adds.
Part of Florida Poly’s mission is to grow the tech industry in an area strategically located between Tampa and Orlando. Industry wants graduates with backgrounds in theory but who also have a lot of practical skills, he says.
For more information, visit Florida Polytechnic University.
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