You know a relationship is growing and evolving for the better when the parties involved make a mutual and substantial investment in expanding their partnership. Take the example of Iowa State University and the Vermeer Corporation, who earlier this month celebrated the official opening of the Vermeer Applied Technology Hub located in the Iowa State University Research Park. The Premiere Event, held to mark the opening, gave Iowa State and Vermeer the opportunity to showcase their public-private partnership and the new 35,880-square-foot facility featuring offices, meeting space and a shop. The second floor of the facility is the new home to the Iowa State University StartUp Factory, whose first cohort is working towards bringing their startup businesses to the market.
The event featured speeches from Vermeer’s Chair of the Board Mary Andringa and President and CEO Jason Andringa; Debi Durham, director of the Iowa Department of Economic Development; Iowa State President Steven Leath; and Michael Crum, ISU’s vice president for economic development and business engagement.
“The opening of this facility is really opening the door to the future of integrating corporate engagement, innovation and development, and experiential learning,” said Leath. “As an innovation leader for the Cultivation Corridor, Iowa State’s engagement with global companies like Vermeer is essential to our collective goal of becoming a global center for excellence in agbiosciences, biorenewables, biotech, and advanced manufacturing.”
The Iowa State and Vermeer partnership is not new, nor is their commitment of working together in close proximity. In 2012, Vermeer became the first Iowa-based manufacturing corporation to open an office at the Iowa State Research Park. The launch allowed Vermeer better access and the opportunity to develop strong relationships with their future workforce – namely, Iowa State students, with Vermeer filling nearly half of its annual internships with Iowa State students, which continues even today.
Since 2012, there have been 14 senior engineer capstone projects completed and four active projects this semester in which Vermeer and ISU students have partnered together to advance the educational instruction of students using real-life Vermeer opportunities. Multiple research projects have evolved into applied research projects. In addition, Vermeer’s Chair of the Board Mary Andringa announced they are in the second year of the Vermeer International Leadership Program, a year-long, in-depth leadership experience where students learn how companies like Vermeer operate on an international scale. Eighteen students completed the program last year and 20 are in the cohort this year.
“This state-of-the-art facility enables ISU students, faculty and Vermeer team members to work together on technology and equipment that will solve the future challenges that face Vermeer customers,” said Jason Andringa. “While this facility is new, what we’re pursuing within it, is rooted in the Vermeer legacy of innovation and collaboration.”
That same innovative spirit is shared by the ISU StartUp cohort whose members were on hand to mingle with guests and pitch their startup business ideas on a “soapbox stage” in the center of the facility’s shop space.
“This event really showcases what is possible when a globally recognized leader like Vermeer partners with Iowa State,” said Crum. “In one part of the building Vermeer is focused on building smarter machines, and in another we are commercializing the latest in technology and creating companies with the ISU Startup Factory. This event truly showcases the entire ecosystem of what our economic development efforts are about.”