Much has been made about the proposed Missouri Innovation Park at Blue Springs and the University of Missouri’s role in it.

Much has been made about the proposed Missouri Innovation Park at Blue Springs and the University of Missouri’s role in it.

At long last, Provost Brian Foster shed some light on what has been, at best, only vague assumptions.

As the guest speaker at the Blue Springs Economic Development Corporation’s quarterly luncheon on Wednesday, Foster said the ambitious project is as exciting a concept as he’s seen in his lifetime.

And having served as Provost at the University of New Mexico, as Dean of Arts and Sciences at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln and as Graduate Dean at Arizona State University – that claim carries some weight.

“This is one of the most exciting things going on at the University of Missouri,” Foster said. “And we’re moving ahead.”

Thursday’s presentation was meant to shed light on not only the project itself – billed as a 250-acre research park with the 250-acre golf course amenity along Adams Dairy Parkway – but the university itself, described by Foster as one of the top research universities in the world and one that consistently devotes millions of dollars to research expenditures.

During the last three and a half years serving as provost, Foster said he’s come to understand the international importance of the university in both academia and comparative medicine efforts.

Partnering with both Blue Springs and the EDC, the University of Missouri is planning to construct an estimated 180,000 square feet of development upon 20 acres within the park, named The Mizzou Center.

Within those 20 acres, Foster said there will be basic animal and human research, similar to what the university engages in currently. There is also a planned technology transfer component, or a licensing associate that will license inventions created by companies within the park, who will then market the product.

The licensing associate was by far the most interesting aspect of the project so far, specifically because of how the park’s organizers feel that would attract companies looking for locations to set down for business.

There will also be educational programs offered at the park, but Foster stressed the proposed Mizzou Center won’t be a satellite campus but rather a place where Ph.D candidates can work and assist graduates and doctors at the companies within the park.

For example, the campus is currently providing radioactive isotopes for the medical and pharmaceutical industries. He said the university plans to continue that kind of research tradition at the park, encouraging collaboration between biotech firms, all the while relying on prospective Ph.D candidates and recent graduates to help.

 Current research at the Columbia campus includes organ and autoimmune research.

“There is some mind-blowing (research) going on right now at the university,” Foster said. “The quality is world class.”

Foster even said the park could be an opportunity for the university to collaborate with the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

“We don’t have a dentistry program,” Foster said, “but they do. We do have dentistry in the veterinarian program, however. That kind of collaboration could be stunning.”

And again:

“We generate radiopharmaceuticals at Mizzou, but we don’t have a pharmacy school like UMKC does.”

It will be the presence of the Missouri Extension within the park that will be another positive component.

“The services that extension gives, like consulting and business retention strategies, will contribute to its value,” Foster said.

News of the proposed park, which will only entice companies to come and see what it has to offer, will be spread by alumni, Foster said. He said the college ranks seventh in the number of graduates who are CEOs of Fortune 500 companies.

“And 70 percent of Mizzou graduates find jobs in Missouri,” he said. “That’s a number we’re proud of.”

Brien Starner, director of EDC, said he and park organizers expect as many as 60 core tenants to locate in the park, specializing in any of the main areas of research concentration: animal health, comparative medicine, alternative energy, nanotechnology.

Starner has said many times since the project’s first public unveiling in mid-December 2008 that as many as 5,000 jobs paying an average annual salary of $55,000 could come to the park – and the greater Kansas City area.

“There are projects that come and go,” Starner said. “But part of our goal was to make this multi-generational.”