Open house brings crowd to campus research hub

A crowd gathers to enjoy a concert at Outside at Research Park. This festival is one of many that contributes to Champaign-Urbana’s vibrant culture.

By Ben Lash

The Research Park at the University hosted a community open house on Friday, where companies operating within the Park demonstrated their projects.

Guests also had the opportunity to tour buildings occupied by different corporations and companies, such as State Farm and Yahoo.

“Research Park does over 150 events over the course of a year, and a good majority of them have been open to the public,” said Laura Weisskopf Bleill, associate director of Research Park. “We decided to model this event more along the lines of other open house events that happen on campus.”

The open house was primarily located in the EnterpriseWorks Incubator building. While close to 90 companies operate in different buildings throughout Research Park, the EnterpriseWorks Incubator alone houses over 45 companies.

“The startup community is centralized in the EnterpriseWorks, which is focused on science-based startups commercializing technology,” Bleill said. “Much of the technology has been developed out of the University, so a lot of our companies are started by faculty members. Some others are started by graduate students that start companies out of research.”

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    Many original and enterprising products were on display in the atrium of the EnterpriseWorks building. Among these was a product called Mousr, developed by the company Petronics. Mousr is a robotic mouse created for entertaining household cats.

    “Mousr is our first product,” said graduate student Dave Cohen. “But our aim is to grow into a home robotics company.”

    Another company at the open house was Inprentus, which focuses on diffraction gratings for X-ray applications.

    “We were asked to show our equipment off,” said Inprentus employee and University graduate Jonathan Manton. “People here are doing really amazing stuff in labs here.“

    Research Park was approved by the Board of Trustees in 1999 and opened its first building in 2001. Since then, it has grown into a respected and productive complex in the U.S.

    “The larger corporations are here because of the relationships they develop with the University, whether that’s to tap in student employment or the full-time engineering talent in this community,” Bleill said. “This is a major tech hub in the Midwest.”

    Following the open house was the latest in the Outside at Research Park concert series, a partnership between Research Park and the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts.

    Located across from the I Hotel on First street, Outside at Research Park featured Grammy-nominated musical group Della Mae, with an opening performance from the local band Tara Terra. The performances drew a large crowd despite unfavorable weather conditions involving a thunderstorm hours earlier.

    The next installment of Outside at Research Park will be on July 17, which will feature the Kilborn Alley Blues Band with an opening act from the James Jones Trio.