A major announcement made in the last month of 2015 shook the economic state of Delaware and sent it into heighten uncertainty.
In late December 2015, DuPont announced that 1,700 jobs in Delaware would be terminated out of 7,000 then employed in the state in preparation of its merger with Dow Chemical Company. This represented a significant 24 percent reduction in the size of the company’s workforce. The layoffs were high-paying, highly-educated research positions, focusing on scientists at the Experimental Station. In addition to the DuPont downsizing, an additional combined total of 619 jobs ended from Legacy Supply Chain Services, Chemours, Sodexo, Inc.“, and Capital One. Delaware’s economy in New Castle County was in distress, high wage talent quickly evaporating, and the state’s economic survival very undefined.
In 2016 the Delaware Technology Park (DTP) expanded its footprint in Delaware with building a wet laboratory incubator thanks to an over $516,000 Economic Development Administration grant. Located within the University of Delaware’s Science, Technology, and Research Campus (STAR) DTP@STAR is a world class site where early stage Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) entrepreneurs can come and work on their innovations. The incubator offers access to chemical or biological based labs as well as collaboration space, office, shared services and access to students and faculty.
Entrepreneurs have utilized lab space to work on a broad array of new technologies – from cancer therapeutics to bio-based lubricants; non-Newtonian liquids to surfactants. DTP@STAR represents the very best of academic, public and private partnership to further technology and economic development through support of early stage companies. The assist tenants in helping to find out if their concepts are reproduceable and scalable. Here they are connected to resources that help them with their business model, finances, intellectual property, presentation skills, networking opportunities and other valuable resources.
A special program that is run out of DTP@STAR is the “Spin In” program. This offers early stage companies a resource to help develop their promising ideas and technologies. Spin In assembles teams of students (technical, marketing, business, design policy) to further develop the potential innovations and move them along the commercialization pipeline. Since moving to DTP@STAR 57 undergraduate students and six graduate students have participated and received real world experience working with eight entrepreneurial firms and earned a part-time paycheck.
Chris Vaddi, Chief Executive Officer and Founder of Prelude Therapeutics as well as a DTP@STAR graduate praised the program for the help he has received.
“I want to express sincere appreciation on behalf of Prelude for the support, guidance and help received over the past two years, since the inception of the idea of starting a new company,” said Vaddi. “With the laboratory space at STAR DTP incubator and the seed capital we raised, we were able to attract a very talented group of scientists, make a great deal of progress in our lead program and consequently create a compelling business case for the next round of financing.”
Since the opening of the incubator in 2016, 17 of the original 19 companies still exist and are profitable. To date 68 full time jobs have been created and 76 students, interns, and part-time employees have worked here during the past three years.