Activating underutilized university real estate to support research commercialization and faculty entrepreneurship
In 2018, Rice University reached out to U3 to help develop a strategy for a new bioscience innovation center on Rice-owned land adjacent to the Rice campus in between Houston’s Museum District and the Texas Medical Center. The effort involved two interrelated strategies: a programmatic strategy to guide how the project could best serve Rice’s goals and ambitions for research commercialization; and a transaction strategy to help the university secure the right third-party development partner.
U3 previously assisted Rice in 2013-2014 with a feasibility study regarding the expanded commercial use of its Biomedical Research Collaborative building (BRC). Rice’s leadership saw a strategic opportunity to leverage the ground-breaking research being conducted in the BRC and to further cultivate a bioscience / biomedical commercialization ecosystem. To fulfill this goal, Rice purchased a 1.6-acre parcel of land across the street from the BRC to serve as the potential future site of a new biosciences/ biomedical innovation center. U3 helped Rice engage with stakeholders from within the institution to gain a deeper understanding of what the new innovation center should be, how it will align with Rice’s strategic plan and the larger innovation /research ecosystem, and exactly who it can serve. U3 also reviewed the Houston life science real estate market and reached out to a cross section of national life science developers to gain further insight into the potential for working with a commercial partner. After pausing the project in 2020, U3 issued a Request for Expressions of Interest (RFEI) on Rice’s behalf in Summer 2021 to development partners. The RFEI articulates Rice’s ambitions for delivering the project in a way that advances the university’s research commercialization and innovation goals, as well as achieving favorable financial returns and long-term real estate ownership outcomes. An impressive cross-section of developers expressed enthusiasm and interest for the project, placingU3 and Rice in the enviable position of evaluating a number of potentially promising paths forward in early 2022.