STAR Park to expand with 20-acre addition by 2016

Special to the Star
Ruwan Dedigama, senior staff engineer, contucts energy research Sept. 2 at STAR One.

The Science, Technology and Advanced Research (STAR) Park will expand by 20 acres after receiving approval from the Texas State University System Board of Regents to acquire an adjacent tract of land.

The expansion project was authorized at the Board of Regents meeting in Austin Aug. 29, and the land purchase is estimated to cost $1,768,000, according to a university news release. The 38-acre site dedicated to research and commercialization efforts will expand the site to 58.28 acres.

The 38-acre complex contains 16,000 square feet of wet labs and office space for its tenants, said Juan Guerra, associate vice president of Facilities. Start-up companies interested in fostering a relationship with the university can collaborate with faculty and students through STAR Park. They can rent out space in the park in an effort to commercialize research and exchange intellectual property, according to the Star Park website.

STAR Park opened in 2012, establishing relationships with companies such as Quantum, Systems and Materials Research Corporation (SMRC) and MicroPower Global, according to the website.

Funding for the original project was funneled from multiple sources, including the university, federal grants from the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) and the city of San Marcos, Guerra said.

However, funding for the expansion has yet to be finalized, he said.

"Right now I have a funding source from the university pending a couple of decisions, " Guerra said.

Stephen Frayser, STAR Park Director, will make the final decision in choosing the sources of funds, Guerra said.

The expansion project is currently budgeted at $8 million, Guerra said.

In addition to the 16,000 square foot expansion, another project has been separated from the construction of the expansion in an effort to streamline the process, Frayser said.

"There's a companion project, which is to build out the existing laboratory spaces in STAR One itself, so we actually have two projects underway right now," Guerra said.

STAR One, the technology business incubator, was originally envisioned to continue to grow as more tenants became interested with partnering with the university, and the park continued to progress with collaborative research.

"This is a huge step by the university by publicly stating they're committed to advancing the research premise at Texas State," Frayser said. 

The park’s current 20-year plan includes concepts for five new buildings, Frayser said.

The university is in a strategic location where surrounding companies need the type of space and resources STAR Park provides, Frayser said. The park itself is small compared to other established research parks, but the expansion places the university in the position to increase its size in the future. 

"STAR Park brings new companies with new technology, giving students exposure to these companies in hopes it will lead to future internships," said Tania Betancourt, assistant professor of Biochemistry.

In one case, Jennifer Irvin, associate professor of chemistry, has engaged in collaborative efforts with SMRC at STAR Park, creating the opportunity for one of her students to garner an internship, Betancourt said. 

Betancourt said she hopes future STAR Park expansions include space for students to take advantage of Ph.D. programs not limited to the sciences.

"STAR Park was built for students to take advantage of," Betancourt said. 

The expansion project is expected to be finished in 2016, Guerra said.