News Column

UCF to open digital-media incubator in downtown Orlando

June 7, 2014

By Paul Brinkmann, Orlando Sentinel



June 07--UCF is opening a new digital-media incubator in downtown Orlando, where startup companies can develop video games, animated film, simulation, and mobile and web products, officials said Friday.

The incubator will open this fall at UCF's Center for Emerging Media, near the Bob Carr Performing Arts Centre.

It will be part of UCF's Florida Interactive Entertainment Academy, a video game program for graduate students, and its nearby Studio 500, which collectively is FIEA's audio, motion capture and film studios. It is only one of several UCF goals to open new facilities downtown, including a new downtown campus.

"All great cities have a proportion of college students and recent grads downtown. It creates energy and sustainability," FIEA executive director Ben Noel said.

FIEA graduates who want to launch a startup company can work in the new incubator for a year. In exchange, the university takes a 5 percent equity stake in the startup, said Noel, a former vice president from Maitland-based video game giant EA Sports.

He said the incubator could end up at the new UCF campus in the planned multi-use complex known as Creative Village some day.

The plan adds to growing momentum for the tech startup industry in downtown Orlando. For example, entrepreneurs recently announced a plan for Catalyst, a shared works pace at One South Orange.

Catalyst is about 7,000 square feet and has a broader focus on entrepreneurs. Another shared work space called Canvs, at 17,000 square feet, is set to open in the next month. Canvs founders are aiming to keep that space focused on tech startups in general.

That trend is being noticed all over the United States, where there's a return to downtown areas. Author Richard Florida is among those who have observed and written about the trend, which he calls the "urban tech revolution"

At first, the new program will be available only to FIEA alumni. Noel said the incubator may consider taking in graduates from other programs later.

The 5,000-square-foot incubator will provide office and meeting space, a 20-seat theater, mentors, equipment and access to technology.

Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer praised the move.

"As the No. 2 ranked graduate school for game development, FIEA is an anchor for the Creative Village," Dyer said in a statement. "Now, with the launch of FIEA Ventures, the University of Central Florida is taking an innovative approach to ensure its talented alumni become Orlando's next generation of successful tech entrepreneurs."

"FIEA's success in developing graduates for high-wage, local industries has increased entrepreneurship, and this new program will place our recent graduates in a perfect atmosphere to start a successful small business," Noel said.

UCF's FIEA program has been recognized as one of the top graduate schools in the country for video game development. The entire four-semester program costs about $33,000 for in-state tuition.

pbrinkmann@tribune.com or 407-420-5660

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(c)2014 The Orlando Sentinel (Orlando, Fla.)

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Source: Orlando Sentinel (FL)


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