The opening of the Innovation Center at the Arkansas Biosciences Institute on the campus of Arkansas State University in Jonesboro was a big deal for local innovators who are commercializing their research.

Check out coverage of the official opening Sept. 23 from ArkansasBusiness.com:

ASU Innovation Center Expected to Boost Research Output

The center, the only business incubator in northeast Arkansas, and will focus on ASU’s research niche in plant and biological sciences. It becomes the state’s third business incubator. The Genesis Technology Incubator in Fayetteville commercializes University of Arkansas tech-based research while the BioVentures incubator in Little Rock develops health-related technology produced at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.

Two ASU startups, Infinite Enzymes and Nature West (both IA clients firms), stand to benefit from the center’s opening, its more than 9,000-SF of free lab and office space and direct access to ABI’s 80,000-SF of state-of-the-art equipment and facilities focusing on the areas of agriculture and disease, molecular innovations in food science, plant metabolic engineering and plant-based protein production.

In other words, it’ll be filled with really, really smart people.

“We’re all pretty excited,” said Infinite Enzyme’s Beth Hood, a former ASU vice chancellor for research. “This will consolidate us into a dedicated space.”

The center also will place entrepreneurs steps away from the ASU College of Business and the Delta Center for Economic Development and all the resources that go with them.

“This facility helps us close the development circle,” said Delta Center director Alan McVey. “It enables us to form our own companies and keep them in Arkansas.”

Historically, northeast Arkansas entrepreneurs, especially those in the plants and biological sciences fields who need wet lab space, have been forced to seek resources in Memphis or Little Rock, or even further out.

“This center fills a niche,” McVey said. “There hasn’t been this kind of space available for lease for startup companies in this area.”

Fabrico Medina-Bolivar, associate professor of metabolic engineering at ASU, said the Innovation Center makes possible startup companies that otherwise would have no shot at getting off the ground. He and fellow ASU researcher Maureen Dolan run Nature West, a molecular diagnostic development startup. It has developed patented technology that is assigned to ASU.

“The opportunity for small companies to have the resources of the incubator and access to ABI makes it plausible,” he said. Without the center, he added, “There’s no other way we could do it, no other way it could work.”