Florida: A Ripe Climate for Innovation

The Sunshine State, famous for its beaches and orange groves, has become a center of development for several emerging industries, and a biotechnology leader.

Florida may be known for its world-famous beaches, but the state is rapidly positioning itself as the “innovation hub” for several high-technology industries, including biotechnology, photonics, modeling/simulation, aviation/aerospace, and alternative energy. It also has become the focal point for homeland security research.

An innovative environment and a growing technology infrastructure are spurring development in each of these high-tech sectors.

Nearly 200 biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies currently are located in Florida. Areas of excellence in this sector include biological devices, diagnostics, and therapeutics. Six world-class research organizations are located in the state, including The Scripps Research Institute.

Earlier this year, Governor Charlie Crist announced the expansion of the Oregon Health and Science University’s Vaccine and Gene Therapy Institute (VGTI) to Port St. Lucie, FL. VGTI has assembled a team of experts to allow the rapid movement of discoveries from the laboratory to the clinic for use as medical treatments.

“The arrival of VGTI further develops Florida as a biotech hub and establishes the Sunshine State as a global leader in medical research and development,” Gov. Crist says. “Florida’s economy will benefit from the collaboration among Florida’s biotech companies, which will also lead to better medical treatments and a better quality of life for all of us.”

The state is providing $60 million in incentive funding from the Florida Innovation Fund to develop the institute. In addition, the city of Port St. Lucie has committed to providing $53 million in infrastructure expenditures. Florida’s economic investment in VGTI in Port St. Lucie will strengthen the unification of disciplines in immunology, cell biology, and virology in developing vaccines, and therapeutics for infectious diseases. VGTI and its anticipated institute-dependent startup companies will support approximately 1,466 positions directly and indirectly over a 20-year period and will generate $2 billion in payroll and $4.2 billion in gross state product during the same time frame.

The University of Florida in Gainesville recently reached an agreement with an internationally recognized developer to create up to 160,000 square feet of life sciences- and technology-related laboratory and office space on the University of Florida campus.

The project, to be known as The Innovation Center, will be developed by Alexandria Real Estate Equities Inc.—the largest dedicated life science property and innovation specialist worldwide. Alexandria’s business model involves the creation and growth of science clusters in close proximity to strong academic, medical, and research institutions. The center is expected to be completed in 2010.

Florida Research and Education Centers are on the Front Lines of Homeland Security

– Center for Biological Defense at the University of South Florida

– Center for Excellence in Security and Assurance in Information Technology Lab at Florida State University, Tallahassee

– Center for Infrastructure Protection and Physical Security at the University of Florida, Gainsville

– Institute for Human Machine Cognition, Pensacola

– Institute for Simulation and Training at the University of Central Florida, Orlando

– National Center for Maritime and Port Security, Tampa Bay

– Scripps Florida’s Pandemic Research & Synthetic Vaccine Development, Jupiter

Last month, Gov. Crist announced the creation of the Florida Max Planck Institute of Bio-imaging in Jupiter. To be located on the campus of Florida Atlantic University, the research center will support approximately 1,824 positions directly and indirectly over a 20-year period and will generate $2.4 billion in payroll and $5.3 billion in gross state product.

The state’s investment in the Florida Max Planck Institute will establish a leading research center that will unite advanced optical microscopy, magnetic resonance, and imaging sciences, allowing researchers to study the structure, dynamics and function of molecules.

Cocoa, FL, is the home of the Florida Solar Energy Center (FSEC), which is at the forefront of research and development of alternative fuel and solar power technologies. The FSEC was created by the Florida Legislature in 1975 to serve as the state’s energy research institute, and it has conducted pioneering research in photovoltaics, as well as hydrogen and other alternative fuels.

Florida’s leadership in the production of unmanned aerial vehicles makes the state a pioneer of homeland security research. With one of the top four photonics/optics clusters in the United States and companies specializing in lasers, fiber optics, optical components and similar technologies, Florida is a leader in threat detection and prevention innovations.

Several major research and education centers focusing on homeland security are based in the state, including the Center for Biological Defense at the University of South Florida in St. Petersburg.

More than 1,400 aviation companies are based in Florida. For more than 50 years, the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral has been the world’s premier “gateway to space,” and today the state hosts nearly a third of all worldwide commercial space activity.

Virtually every major aerospace company from around the world has operations in Florida. In the past five years, Florida companies and individuals have received more than 700 patents in aerospace-related activities. Areas of excellence include flight training, propulsion systems, avionics, modeling and simulation, and maintenance.

The state also is home to a number of major aviation learning centers, including the Delta Connection Academy, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, FlightSafety International, the Florida Institute of Technology College of Aeronautics, and the JetBlue Universit
y Training Center.

Florida’s aviation cluster also is home to the third largest aircraft maintenance, repair, and overhaul cluster in the United States.

Florida’s Aviation & Aerospace Clusters



Size: More than 1,400 aviation companies

Areas of Excellence: Flight training, maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO), air cargo

Fast Fact: Florida has the third largest MRO cluster in the United States.



Size: Approximately 400 aerospace companies

Areas of Excellence: Aircraft, aircraft parts, propulsion systems, avionics, modeling and simulation

Fast Fact: Florida is the number three state in manufacturing aircraft engines.



Size: More than 180 space technology companies

Areas of Excellence: Aeronautical instruments, rockets, spacecraft, satellites

Fast Fact: Florida is home to one of only six commercially licensed spaceports in the United States.