Partnerships with universities, private sector fill center's plate

Partnerships with universities, private sector fill center's plate

Virginia's Center for Innovative Technology (CIT) has offered technical, business and financial assistance to technology companies since 1984.

The state-funded technology incubator was created to nurture research and technology in five areas:

• Aerospace and transportation

• Biotechnology and biomedical applications

• Energy and environmental technology

• Electronics manufacturing

• Information technology and telecommunications.

Although CIT is funded by the state with an annual budget of about $13 million, it is nonetheless a private nonprofit organization. CIT's former president Robert Templin described CIT as a true hybrid. CIT can act like a state organization when it needs to or like a private organization when it needs to, Templin said.

Some services CIT has offered are partnerships with the state's colleges and universities; 13 technology development centers throughout the state that provide assistance for emerging technologies ranging from integrated systems to wireless communications; and entrepreneurship centers, where CIT officials work with local companies to create business plans and find revenue sources.

CIT also has partnered with several federal research institutions, including the Naval Research Laboratory, NASA's Langley Research Center and the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility, home to the world's most powerful tunable laser.

CIT's partnership with Virginia's universities has led to a beneficial side effect: The historic rift between business and academia is healing.

'I think the gap is really closing between business and academia,' said Robert Schwartz, CIT's director of intellectual resources.

'When I first came on board 12 or so years ago, there was a huge disparity. Companies were trying to figure out how to link their 286 PCs. Then you'd go over the university, and they were still working on an old minicomputer,' Schwartz said. 'Now there's much more interest in getting industry and academia together. Distance learning and the concept of lifetime education are also bridging the gap.'

'Trudy Walsh

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