5 Questions with CEO, President of Research Park at FAU Andrew Duffell


1. Tell us about yourself, your background and how you became CEO/President of Research Park.
I’ve been involved in economic development since 2002 when I helped graduates of the JobCorps program find and keep gainful employment. After that I started helping U.S. tech companies expand into Europe, using the U.K. as a springboard. I’ll be interested to see how that strategy works going forward now that the U.K. voted to leave the E.U.
Economic development is fun for a practioner: I get to interact with people from all over the world in all sorts of different fields, and to help them create jobs and long term prosperity for our region is very rewarding. I get to help shape the South Florida my two children will lead in the future.
I came to the Research Park in 2011 after my long-time predecessor passed away, leaving a strong foundation of a research park to build upon and power into the future. I met with the Authority and told them my vision; on my way home from the interview they called me and asked when I could start.
2. Fill us in on what is happening at Research Park. How many businesses are there, what are they up to?
We have 19 mature companies in the Research Park, working in the aviation, medical devices, medical imaging, radio frequency testing and other industries. We also have 19 early-stage companies in our Technology Business Incubator®: these companies are working in similar industries and we are helping them to scale up and become sustainable corporate citizens.
Last year alone these 38 companies contributed over $849 million to the regional economy in their everyday buying, selling and other activities. Our companies collectively secured 18% of all venture capital raised in South Florida in 2015 and held 615 U.S. patents. 2015 was a good year for the Research Park.
3. What is your favorite success story that comes from or has roots attached to Research Park?
Our best known success to date is Modernizing Medicine. I met Dan Cane a year or so before I moved to the Research Park and was excited by the project he described to me, so we stayed in touch. Soon after coming to the Research Park I contacted Dan and he was running out of space in the offices he had rented so I told him more about the opportunity in the Research Park and we started figuring out how to bring him in. Today the company employs over 400 people and has won almost every major award out there and dominates almost 30% of the U.S. dermatology market.
There are others as well. For example, MobileHelp is a phenomenal company that we brought into the Research Park in its early stages and it is now in its 2nd year of being listed on the Inc. 500 list and is a GrowFL Company To Watch.
4. What is the best part about being located in the city of Boca Raton and having a relationship with FAU?
South Florida stretches from Jupiter to Miami and Boca Raton is the geographic center of that powerhouse region. Boca Raton is where the best of South Florida meets to innovate and do great things. If there’s a better legacy than to be in the birthplace of the IBM personal computer, I don’t know it. There are lots of tech companies here, the community wants to help and the City is a big partner, it all comes together in Boca Raton.
Having a unique relationship with FAU is a tremendous advantage for our companies. They get to work with faculty every day, and to get to know the students before hiring them; the access and proximity are unparalleled. An added bonus is access to the gym and stadium events too!
5. What is the most challenging part of your job? What is the most rewarding part of your job?
Both the challenge and the reward is finding the right partner for each of our companies within the University. Knowing all the research that’s going on helps me understand the needs and capabilities of the companies we try to bring to the Research Park, and then placing them with the ideal partner and knowing that it could lead to a major breakthrough is very exciting.
Funding our work is a challenge, and the City of Boca Raton and Palm Beach County have helped in that regard in the last few years. Now we’re going out to the private sector to ask for its buy-in as well.