Technology footprint

South Florida’s Growing International Technology Footprint

The research park at Florida Atlantic University hosts businesses from Germany, Brazil and beyond.

Florida is home to more university research parks than any other state with an impressive nine.

South Florida’s geographic location gives it a unique opportunity to participate in international trade and Miami, a recognized global brand, is the natural first port of call for many international companies interested in Florida. However, the great thing about this big state is that it has much to offer and can accommodate all newcomers. Look a few miles north, to the geographic center of South Florida, and you’ll land in the Research Park at Florida Atlantic University.

In 1985, Broward and Palm Beach counties took a unique approach to economic development, joining forces to create an independent special district focused exclusively on technology-based research parks. For many years now, the research park has been an engine for Palm Beach and Broward county economic growth and its impacts have not been fully realized.

Pace Americas Headquarters
Pace Americas Headquarters, Boca Raton, FL.

Since 2011, the year I became president and CEO of the park, we have been quantifying the data, and the results are amazing. In 2014, 18 companies were based in the research park while 17 called the Technology Business Incubator (TBI) home. In 2014 alone, 671 new jobs were created for a total of 1,798 with average salaries of $87,000 (almost double the counties’ average). Nearly $50 million in external capital was raised and 37 new patents issued. Long-term sustainability of the economic activity in the research park is important, and having been born and raised in Europe, international growth is important to me; some of our companies are tackling international markets already.

One prime example is Pace plc (LSE:PIC), a publicly traded technology company with its headquarters in the United Kingdom. Its president is an FAU graduate and runs the Americas business unit from Pace Americas LLC’s regional headquarters in the research park.  Pace Americas contributed 62 percent of the company’s overall revenue in 2014, shipping hybrid products to pay TV operators and service providers in the United States and Canada; growing the group’s after-tax profits 53 percent in 2014. Pace operates in the highly competitive market of subscription television, telephone and broadband services. In order to keep competitive, it invests both human and financial resources in research and development (R&D) to the tune of almost $150 million in 2014.

South Florida’s large metropolitan area and two ocean cable landing sites, as well as its proximity to the Latin American markets, make it an attractive location. Combined with the research park’s mission to create and sustain an environment for innovation and invention, as well as maximize the academic talent and regional resources, the decision to locate the operations made sense.

Similarly, Aerospace Technologies Group (ATG) has harnessed not only the academic but the entrepreneurial resources in South Florida to scale its business from startup to successful company with sales around the world. ATG is the largest tier one-supplier of electromechanical aircraft window shade systems, with customers such as Emirates Airlines, Airbus, Boeing and Gulfstream. ATG has developed several patented technologies for window shading systems and has benefited from the proximity to a large body of well-educated and motivated engineers at FAU. In 2015, the company looks to expand its offerings to the aviation market with a wider range of technologically advanced products.

ATG laser
Pictured is an ATG laser project. Photo: Aerospace Technologies Group.

The research park’s mission to accelerate economic development and prosperity for South Florida led it to create the Technology Business Incubator (TBI) in 2000 with the aim of providing the region with a pipeline of viable companies that would create technology and jobs for years to come. In 2013, the TBI partnered with TecnoCampus Mataró, an incubator/research park near Barcelona, Spain, in order to form a partnership that would provide South Florida entrepreneurs a resource as they grow into European markets.

Another benefit is that as the companies incubated in Spain are validated, they know they have a supportive environment in the United States to scale their businesses. Companies from TecnoCampus can apply for up to three months free rent in the TBI and take advantage of all our resources, all while getting to know South Florida. With the success of Pace and ATG and the growing prominence of South Florida as a center for international technology, more overseas companies are inquiring about how to take advantage of our many resources.

Decora moved from Brazil and Yachtico arrived from Germany to scale their business in the United States. These startup companies have validated their online algorithmic platforms in their home markets and now seek to leverage the resources of the TBI to perfect their technologies and scale their companies to maturity. The TBI offers startup companies low-cost flexible leases with on-demand conference rooms and mail facilities, as well as a common break area in combination with custom mentoring; mentors include people on our staff who have assisted dozens of small companies achieve success, as well as the expertise of regional business leaders. In addition, resource partners provide seminars in banking, legal and accounting subjects, among others, to keep entrepreneurs abreast of new developments that could impact their growth. The biggest benefit is the community that is created when bright entrepreneurs get together: the energy is electric and explosive!

Companies such as Canada’s Pivotal Therapeutics and Norway’s Eyelife have landed at the TBI not only to grow their U.S. presence but also to access new technologies from FAU: the former has partnered with Dr. Ken Dawson-Scully, associate professor of biological sciences, to form a new company called Eco Neurologics based on his neuroscience research, while the latter licensed technology to complement its own and create a wireless ultrasound device.

The TBI and the research park companies are as diverse as South Florida and from this diversity comes economic strength. With the economy starting to gain positive momentum, plans are being made by domestic companies to grow into overseas markets and entrepreneurs from overseas are eyeing the United States as a way to scale their companies. The Research Park at FAU is well positioned to accommodate such enterprise and is fast becoming a center for international trade and innovation.