Innosphere extends reach as year 20 approaches The Innovation Economy - 2017

Innosphere is Colorado’s technology incubator.  We focus on supporting science and engineering startup companies mostly along the Front Range.  As we approach 20 years of operations and look to the future, it’s hard to not look back at the progress of the organization, remember past leadership, and recognize the past and current board of directors and exceptional staff who have graced the organization.  Our goal is to continue providing high-quality service to founders of Colorado-based technology startup companies for another 20 years.

As we peer into the future, it is exciting to envision what the entrepreneurial community may look like, and how Colorado will compete in a world where most cities, regions, states and nations are seeking to build technology centers of importance. 

I’m excited to start writing monthly columns in BizWest to provide an inside look into Innosphere’s programs & services, client companies, and supporters in the context of where innovation and entrepreneurship may be heading for science and engineering startup companies in our state.  The inspiration to write this column is to provide a balanced view on what is working well at Innosphere, working well in our ecosystem, address challenges, and discuss where there appears to be opportunities for Colorado to strengthen its technology-based economy.  These are very important topics for the organization, as Innosphere’s core mission is supporting technology entrepreneurs and supporting high-quality job creation.

For this first column, let’s start at the beginning to set some context on the past. Innosphere began as a virtual incubator connecting high-tech entrepreneurs with the many experienced advisors in our region.  The City of Fort Collins and Colorado State University were early supporters because our mission fit with their goals of growing the technology community in Northern Colorado.  In the early days of Innosphere, Kathy Kregel built out the core programs and services for startup entrepreneurs.  Mark Forsyth then led the organizational expansion in Northern Colorado and the first foray into offering companies leasable space.  At this time, impactful services such as the SAGE Advisor program were born. Today the SAGE program is still very active, meeting monthly to hear from entrepreneurs that need deep industry experience and hands-on advising. I’m excited to announce that Innosphere recently launched this successful SAGE Advisor program in Boulder.

In 2009, Innosphere’s staff and board of directors worked with the City of Fort Collins Urban Renewal Authority (URA) to put together a financing package for the facility in Fort Collins, a state-of-the art innovation center that offers class A office and wet lab space inside of a 31,000-square-foot LEED Platinum building. The URA provided a loan to Innosphere, and then the URA authorized $2.8 million in support through a tool known as Tax Increment Financing (TIF), which pledges future property tax revenue from the development to cover a portion of construction costs.  Additionally, an unconventional tax credit program was utilized that resulted in Innosphere gaining significant equity in the building.

More recently, Innosphere merged with Boulder’s Innovation Center of the Rockies organization. The merger grew Innosphere’s resources and capacity to serve entrepreneurs, and grew our capabilities to support Colorado’s three major research universities: Colorado School of Mines, Colorado State University, and University of Colorado.  Innosphere’s long-term success relies on remaining in synch with local economic development goals, continuing to support university commercialization efforts, and continuing to generate a long-term pipeline of technology companies seeking our support to improve their chances of success.

I hope these monthly columns will give readers a better idea of how and why Innosphere does what we do in supporting startup companies in biosciences, enterprise software, hardware, water, energy, transportation, and advanced materials. In addition, I hope to stimulate thinking about our strengths and highlight areas that need our region’s attention.

Mike Freeman is the CEO of Innosphere. He can be reached at (970) 818-7736 or mike@innosphere.org.