West Virginia University has taken another step forward in its efforts to link research to economic development with the opening of a business incubator at the Chestnut Ridge Research Building off Milan Puskar Boulevard.

Already two promising businesses have located in the incubator on CRRB s newly remodeled sixth floor, with the likelihood of at least three more tenants moving in by the end of the year, officials say.

The link between research and economic development is entrepreneurship,said John Weete, vice president for research and economic development at WVU .We see the role of the WVU Business Incubator as providing nurturing services for a young businessservices that it cant afford, or doesnt know how to do, to get it off the ground.

A one-year $169,000 Benedum Foundation grant is enabling WVU s Office of Technology Transferunder the direction of Bill Pollockto offer various services to start-up businesses through the incubator.

Some of those services deal with legal and financial issues; others with marketing and information technology, Weete noted.

The grant helps pay for some of the equipment needed like computers, fax machines and copiers. It also helps to offset the costs of professional consultants that might be brought in to assist the businesses in the various service areas.

The focus of the incubator is to assist businesses spawned by new technologies discovered primarily at WVU , Weete said. However, the incubator is not restricted to that.

The concept behind one of the tenants, Abilities Personnel, was developed at WVU in partnership with its founder, Weete noted. The other tenant, MD Biotech, came to the incubator with its own technologies, but also has licensed some technologies developed at WVU .

Abilities Personnel was formed to address employment difficulties faced by people with disabilities and facilitate linking them to satisfying career opportunities.

Its refreshing after 14 years of working with people with disabilities to be in a state and at a university where theres just so much commitment and support for our companys cause,

said Abilities Personnel CEO Andrew D. Pope.Our relationship with WVU has already opened up a lot of doors, and were really just getting started. This is a great, positive partnership, and were going to help a lot of people.

MD Biotech has become synonymous with bio-imaging, in which advanced imaging technology is used, coupled with specially designed, task specific software to process and analyze images for innovative life-science applications.

The tenants arent the only ones benefitting from the new business incubator. About 10 student interns, under the supervision of Office of Technology Transfer Associate Director Shannon Sheehan, are gaining hands-on experience working in the incubator while supporting the businesses.

Its a great learning experience for the students,Weete said.They come from the colleges of law, business and economics, and computer science. The students can help a business when it comes to making sure a contract is legally sound, or even developing a web site.

The business incubator currently employs a part-time administrator. Weete noted that this position will become full-time once the incubator is full. Eventually, the business incubator will be relocated to the new WVU Research Park off Route 705, he said. Groundbreaking for the research park is expected in late summer or early fall.

The goal behind the WVU Business Incubator is to help young businesses succeed, and move WVU technologies out of the University into viable businesses, Weete added.

These businesses employ people and pay taxes. They are bonafide business entities. Through the WVU Business Incubator effort, we hope to contribute to boosting and diversifying the economy,Weete said.