With two major announcements in 2017, DuPont pumped new energy into its well-known Wilmington-area landmark — the DuPont Experimental Station, a 55-building campus opened in 1903 on a hillside overlooking the Brandywine Creek.
The first announcement was made in January by DuPont CEO Ed Breen: The company will invest $200 million to modernize and upgrade the 150-acre facility.
The second was a joint announcement in late April of a three-way partnership between DuPont, the State of Delaware and the University of Delaware to launch an incubator facility called the Delaware Innovation Space.
DuPont’s contribution to the enterprise is substantial — $1.25 million in initial funding, real estate valued at $15 million and an additional $2 million in lab equipment. The university promises $1.5 million in funding plus educational considerations, and the state will grant $5 million, plus other contributions.
Douglas Muzyka, Ph.D., senior vice president and chief science & technology officer for DuPont, supplies more information.
How is the major upgrade progressing?
The process is already underway. In the past, we were opportunistic when businesses contracted and expanded, so that meant our industrial biosciences business spread across 13 buildings. We are now consolidating that back into one building. Additionally, some of our labs look more like 20th-century labs than 21st-century labs, and we will be taking care of that.
You also have other independent tech businesses on campus in addition to the Delaware Innovation Space. How does it all fit together?
Our vision is to have a highly productive space with multiple businesses as well as — and this is new — third parties to help leverage the resources to create a collaborative environment with cross-fertilization. It will no longer be the closed campus that it was, but rather a major science research center.
Whether they are located in the Innovation Space or elsewhere on campus, how do you choose which businesses can be part of it?
We don’t want to be too prescriptive. For example, the Nemours Children’s Hospital will have research space in Building 400. We see startup companies ranging from two or three people who occupy a quarter of one lab to others that might occupy an entire floor. We want to partner with them to get on their feet and to start growing toward commercialization. Ideally, some will grow to such a size that we would help “implant” them to other facilities outside of the Station.
How do you draw the line between being collaborative and still protecting intellectual property?
It’s a fine line. We did a lot of research benchmarking other successful research centers such as Silicon Valley and Cambridge, Mass. We have the right protocols to manage the situation so that it will be beneficial to everyone.
Including the three partners who will run Innovation Space?
Yes. DuPont will profit from the cross-fertilization. The University of Delaware will be able to provide a commercial context to what they teach in the classroom. Delaware will profit because we will be giving companies a million reasons not to pick up and relocate across the country. We’re a small state, but that means that we can be fast-moving, and we can be agile.
This article appeared in the premiere issue of Delaware Innovation Magazine, an overview of the state’s cutting edge industries and the people leading them. See the whole issue here.