Our Work

Realizing Research Ambitions through Real Estate Activation

  • Rice University
Client Type
  • Higher Education

Houston, TX

Practice Areas
  • Transformative Real Estate

Rice University

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.


Achieve the twin goals of (1) supporting the university’s research efforts and (2) strategically monetizing underutilized university real estate holdings.


U3 managed a competitive process to find a real estate development partner to deliver on the university’s goals and deliver market returns on their land. Minimizing the university’s risk exposure and ensuring adequate university project control were clear mandates throughout this process.


In Summer 2021, a Request for Expressions of Interest generated a robust response, with serious submissions from multiple best-in-class life sciences facility developers. A more prescriptive Request for Proposals is anticipated in the first quarter of 2022.