UTD students are now welcome at the new IQ Headquarters, the next step in student entrepreneurship and city development which aims to turn 1,200 industrial acres into the future of the city.
Located in the heart of the city, the Richardson Innovation Quarter, otherwise referred to the Richardson IQ, is a city-led revitalization of the Telecom Corridor, which was one of the largest conglomerates of neighboring businesses in the world between 1992 and 2010. In 2003, the dot-com bust rendered the Telecom Corridor obsolete. Richardson’s current goal for the region is to restart partnerships between businesses and encourage a fresh start for local entrepreneurship. Located at 1302 E. Collins Blvd, the IQ Headquarters is a partnership between the city and UTD and the first building to be placed in the new Telecom Corridor. Sarah Crowe, marketing communications manager for UTD at the IQ, said that the project has tried to prioritize student engagement.
“We developed offerings, mentorship, programs, pitch, competition, accelerator, seed fund, all of these things,” said Sarah Crowe, marketing communications manager for UTD at the IQ. “We have workshops, all work with students who want to explore entrepreneurship, and then those who actually want to launch a business. And then we also deal with those who are currently working on business ideas. So it’s all the way from ideation to launch and then acquisition. We work campus wide.”
Eugene Garza, program coordinator for UTD at the IQ, said that the project hopes to put a spotlight on student talent.
“Starting with the best that we got to offer, which is you guys, the students,” Garza said, “and from there, moving on to the top level research that we have. At the same time, we want to imitate the place where a lot of the top tier universities are doing things like Notre Dame, Vanderbilt, Northwestern, and we want to get up to that level, right? We want to do that by focusing on pushing forward this talent that’s coming out of the university.”
In the month since its opening, both UTD leadership and Richardson officials have welcomed students and business alike into the IQ Headquarters. City officials now reside inside the IQ after the City Hall fire on Aug. 22. This close-quarters partnership has opened up a series of opportunities that are expected to be in full bloom in the following months in preparation for December demonstrations and open houses.
“We’re in this setup stage,” Garza said. “Like we’re talking to certain professors about perhaps hosting their classes here, classes in politics and economics. That it’d be great for them to have those neighbors [the Richardson government] right there and get exposure to that. But right now, the student engagement is limited to the ones working with the senators, just because that’s the reach we have right now. We are in the process of communicating with all the different student organizations to let them know that we are here. We’re good to go now. And if they’d like to, you know, host events here used as space for maybe hosting a hackathon here. Things like that. So we I guess the first step is to activate the space. So right now it’s a bit limited since we’re in the initial stages of doing that.”
The front door of UTD entrepreneurship began with the Blackstone Launchpad—a program linked to universities across the country—which has become a funnel for students interested in the IQ. Two primary UTD entities that contributed to the development of the IQ Headquarters are the Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship and the Office of Research and Innovation, which received a grant in 2017 to build their own space. Garza said that the Blackstone Launchpad helps students pitch and prepare their business idea and the Venture Development Center helps students develop the idea further, connect with mentors and secure initial funding. The final step in the process is through the IQ Headquarters, which will help students network with larger investors.
“Once you have actually some funding and you have some investors,” Garza said, “you have some strength behind you, then we can sort of push you to showcase you, and [the IQ] is the place where we would like to do that. We have speaker series, we have different networking events, and things like that where you can rub elbows with some of those bigger fish here in the area. And they can actually maybe take an interest in that company and push it forward further.
Five centers connected to UTD will find a home at the IQ Headquarters: the Center for Applied AI with UTD Expertise, the Center for Applied AI and Machine Learning, Multi-Scaled Integrated Interactive Intelligent Sensing Center, the Center for Smart Mobility, and the Center for Imaging and Surgical Innovation. By coordinating with the IQ Headquarters, UTD hopes to attract regional startups, research ventures and entrepreneur communities for student exposure.
“We asked the question,” Crowe said, “why are so many students coming to UTD but then taking their talents to the West Coast or the East Coast? Why are we losing them? We know that a source of economic development and growth long-term comes from entrepreneurs starting new businesses, but they also come from highly intelligent students that go and work in industry, the future of industry. So we’re here to help explore entrepreneurship and help show them where they can access funding to help them scale and grow. But also just to be a guiding hand and support for all their endeavors.”