The STAR Park companies are also creating jobs, with 17 employed there now. The companies continue to hire interns and employees who are Texas State students and alumni. Frayser estimates that about 40 people will work there within the next two years.
Technology incubators at universities are nothing new. Frayser estimated there are about 200 in the United States, with the first one built at Stanford University in the 1950s. The University of Texas also operates a technology incubator, which opened in 1989 and focuses on firms working in information technology, biomedical science, wireless telecommunications and clean energy. That UT incubator typically admits five to 10 new companies a year and has worked with more than 100 companies in the past 24 years.
MicroPower Global, one of the first companies to join the STAR Park, has been working with Texas State for about five years to develop a unique semiconductor. When energy is produced -- whether by solar panels or coal-burning plants or other means -- about half of the energy is lost as waste heat. MicroPower Global's devices can capture that heat, as well as the heat from computers or servers, and turn it back into electricity.
Texas State "is one of the best facilities in the U.S. for this," said Aruna Ruwan Dedigama, senior engineer for MicroPower Global. His team uses a $4.5 million set of equipment at the university campus, essentially a giant vacuum tube that allows engineers to create the semiconductor devices and manipulate the pieces on an atomic level.
Another STAR Park participant, Quantum Materials Corp., is working on nanotechnology to improve solar panels, LED light panels and biomedical sensors. Systems and Materials Research Corp. has developed nanoadditives that can improve jet fuel, windscreens and pyrotechnics for military applications.
Texas State spent $6.5 million to build the STAR Park, while San Marcos chipped in $500,000 for infrastructure improvements to support it, Frayser said. Funding didn't come from tuition dollars.
In just the past four years, Texas State has begun to make a name for itself in the material science field, a growth area in the technology sector and one ripe for innovations, Frayser said. The field is focused on making a range of materials -- from computer chips to helicopter windscreens -- stronger, lighter, faster and more energy efficient.
Thanks in part to money from the Texas Emerging Technology Fund, Texas State has added 11 faculty positions in the materials science field, allowing the university to develop semiconductors, polymers and nanomaterials. A new Ph.D. program in materials science, engineering and commercialization combines chemistry, biochemistry, electrical engineering, materials and business. In addition to their science classes, Ph.D. students take business development courses and participate in an entrepreneurship boot camp and symposiums that prepare them to deal with venture capitalists and potential investors.
"We're here to serve as a bridge between the private sector and the university," Frayser said.
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