UM Joins Celebration of Cambridge Innovation Center’s Grand Opening at Converge Miami

A dynamic partnership to drive hemispheric innovation

Four strategic priorities of the University of Miami – innovation, entrepreneurship, education and hemispheric outreach – came together Saturday night at a high-energy celebration of the Grand Opening of the Cambridge Innovation Center (CIC) at Converge Miami.

“Innovation is at the heart of the University of Miami’s hemispheric outreach strategy,” said President Julio Frenk in a fireside conversation with Tim Rowe, global CEO of CIC, at the January 21 event. “In addition to strengthening South Florida’s own innovation ecosystem, Converge Miami will provide a welcoming entry point for entrepreneurs from Latin America and the Caribbean, and help us build alliances with leading institutions throughout our hemisphere.”

Approximately 1,700 members of South Florida’s innovation community turned out for the “MiamiLand” celebration at the six-story, 252,000-square-foot facility originally developed as the Life Science and Technology Park through a partnership between UM and Wexford Science & Technology. CIC’s event showcased several interactive displays of advanced technology from Florida entrepreneurs, including innovations from the UM School of Architecture, School of Business Administration and School of Education.

“We are seeking to be a concentrator of talent, creating a dense cluster of innovators who interact with each other face to face,” said Rowe; CIC manages the third and sixth floors of Converge Miami to support startups in various stages, and their nonprofit partner, Venture Cafe, offers programming, including networking events that are held every Thursday at Converge Miami.

Natalia Martinez-Kalinina, General Manager of CIC Miami, welcomed attendees to the celebration. “Since opening our doors in October, we have assisted 110 clients, held 125 events, partnered with more than 50 organizations and received the support of a wide range of stakeholders,” she said. “We are off to a great start.”

Norma Sue Kenyon, Ph.D., Vice Provost for Innovation and Chief Innovation Officer of the Miller School of Medicine, said UM’s partnership with CIC has already been a tremendous boost to Miami-Dade’s innovation ecosystem. “Together, we will establish the region’s first biomedical wet lab space for early stage startups,” she said. “We will also work with CIC to support innovative ventures from other South Florida universities and establish soft landing programs for hemispheric entrepreneurs who can benefit from our crossroads location and Converge Miami’s services.”

In his conversation with Rowe, Frenk shared his vision of building a powerful hub for innovation in the Americas at the University of Miami. “We are a global research university at the crossroads of the Americas,” said Frenk. Referencing a classical Egyptian center of learning, he said Miami can be “the Alexandria of the 21st century.”

Frenk said major Latin America cities like Santiago, Sao Paulo, and Mexico City have urban clusters of engineers, scientists and inventors. But those talented professionals and entrepreneurs often face barriers to launching innovative startups, such as lack of venture capital and a challenging regulatory environment. “Converge Miami will offer those entrepreneurs all the ingredients for success in a location that is easily accessible from throughout the hemisphere,” he said.

Expanding on that hemispheric strategy, Rowe said Converge Miami can also be a soft landing pad for successful Latin American companies seeing to enter the U.S. market. “South Florida’s accessibility, language and cultural affinities make Miami the natural choice for hemispheric entrepreneurs,” he said. “We consider Miami to be the Hong Kong of the Americas, and have embarked on a grand mission to connect the hemispheres.”

Turning to the university’s educational role, Frenk said UM students from all disciplines need to be exposed to innovative ideas and concepts, regardless of their future career plans. “Today, we are facing the destruction of older jobs — not from immigration or trade, but from advances in technology,” he said. “In order to take advantage of the opportunities created by technology, they will need to develop cross-competencies in their skills, and embrace an entrepreneurial mindset.”

In his talk, Frenk also outlined the development of the UM, CIC and Wexford partnership that led to the creation of Converge Miami. “When Tim showed me the CIC center in Cambridge when I was in Boston, I was blown away by the energy of the place,” Frenk said. “Wexford and CIC had already partnered with CIC in several U.S. cities, and when I came to UM as president, I told him we need to do this in Miami. Seeing this partnership in action tonight is simply amazing.”

In discussing CIC’s role and priorities, Rowe pointed to the importance of innovative startups to the growth of the U.S. economy. “Every year, the large corporations are shedding millions of jobs,” he said. ‘But startups are creating even more jobs and keeping our country moving forward. But we need the infrastructure to support these new ventures, and that’s the promise of Converge Miami.”

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