New Innovation Center Plans International Partnerships

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Scott Ball / Rivard Report

Texas Research and Technology Foundation Chairman Randy Harig relaxes at Hotel Emma.

VelocityTX, an innovation center planned for the near-Eastside, plans to partner with entrepreneurial entities in six countries to help startup bioscience companies bring their most promising ideas to market, Executive Vice President Jorge Varela said Thursday.

The Texas Research and Technology Foundation (TRTF) announced the formation of VelocityTX, which is intended to support the development of more early-stage life science and technology companies in San Antonio, last month. On Thursday, Varela and TRTF President and CEO Randy Harig updated 250 attendees gathered at the foundation’s quarterly Emerging Venture Pipeline event on the planned partnerships.

“VelocityTX has signed letters of intent with innovation centers in Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Argentina, Peru, and India,” Varela said last week. “We’ve been targeting international markets to identify foreign companies interested in growing their global presence in the U.S.”

The new innovation center and incubator, which will be located in the former Merchant Ice building, plans its formal launch later in 2017. The VelocityTX team has been working to identify promising entrepreneurs it believes can contribute to San Antonio’s growing innovative community.

One way VelocityTX will do this, Varela said, is to provide international entrepreneurs access to the resources they need such as capital, mentorship, investment opportunities, and subject matter experts for “soft landings” in the U.S. The VelocityTX team is working with partners in emerging economies to provide proven methodologies for their entrepreneurial success.

VelocityTX’s first partnership is with Austral Incuba, the largest innovation center in southern Chile and the business incubator of the University of Austral in Chile.

David Fonseca, vice president for global development at VelocityTX, recently took a position on Chile’s quarterly national startups review committee, giving him the opportunity to see promising bioscience ideas in the South American nation.

“We believe that the VelocityTX-Austral Incuba alliance will not only be the sum of two institutions but will constitute a real synergy that will have a great global impact,” said Austral Incuba Director Macarena Saez in an email.

The VelocityTX team has been conducting entrepreneurial boot camps and training mentors in Chile who will coach companies to succeed, Fonseca said. Once they are ready to scale up, he said, the bioscience companies would come to San Antonio.

“The U.S. is a highly competitive market, and we find that international entrepreneurs love the idea of coming here, especially to Texas,” Fonseca said. “We have already identified three companies and are in the process of engaging with them.”

TRTF’s redevelopment of the five-building Merchant Ice complex just east of downtown is intended to provide a home for VelocityTX and commercial office space as well as contribute to the economic development on the Eastside, TRTF officials said. The initial focus for VelocityTX will be on companies with innovative ideas in bioscience, cybersecurity, and the internet of things space.

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