Completion in sight for UAH's I²C with construction continuing apace

Rigved Joshi

RadioBro Corp. is a space and aviation technology startup created by UAH alumni and twin brothers, Mark and Eric Becnel. It is a tenant of UAH's business incubator, I2C.

Michael Mercier | UAH

Construction is well underway on the Dorothy S. Davidson Invention to Innovation Center (I²C) on the UAH campus. Supported by funding from local, state, and federal sources, as well as a generous $5 million donation from local business executive Dorothy Davidson, for whom the building is named, the three-story, 45,000-square-foot facility will serve as a regional resource offering leadership and support of entrepreneurial initiatives for emerging tech companies throughout 15 counties in Northern Alabama and Southcentral Tennessee.

The I²C’s vertical structure and framing for the first and second floors are complete, the third-floor slab has been poured, and layout for the interior spaces has begun. This includes 15,000 square feet dedicated to flexible co-working, event, and community-engagement space; ample incubation/office space on the second and third floors; and common areas comprising conference and meeting rooms, classrooms, and a cafeteria.

As the building’s structure takes shape, so does the I²C’s vision of being a world-class destination for public exploration in entrepreneurship and new venture acceleration. "This is indeed exciting!" says Rigved Joshi, the center’s director.

We want the I²C to be the go-to place for enterprising individuals.

Rigved Joshi
I2C Director

The facility will offer affordable and flexible occupancy arrangements for a variety of tenants. Individuals or companies seeking permanent office space or a temporary work environment will have access to modern, collaborative common areas; Wi-Fi, power, and high-speed fiber connection; use of shared office equipment; and a business address and mailroom facility. Startups, entrepreneurs, or freelancers looking to engage with little or no access to the physical facility can opt to partner with the I²C virtually. Additionally, the building will be available to UAH students, faculty, and visitors. "We want the I²C to be the go-to place for enterprising individuals to ideate, collaborate, and build companies that are scalable and investable," says Joshi.

Its location on the UAH campus and adjacent to the College of Business also means that members of the I²C community will benefit from being able to tap into the university’s research and development facilities as well as its large network of faculty mentors, advisors, and student organizations. Opportunities for engagement through student jobs, internships, consulting, sponsored research, and other strategic collaborations also serve to enrich what Joshi calls the I²C’s "entrepreneurial ecosystem."

That kind of vibrant and dynamic working environment is exactly what appealed to RadioBro Corporation, a space and aviation technology startup founded in Huntsville by UAH alumni – and twin brothers – Mark and Eric Becnel. With an eye on next-generation technologies, the team of engineers at RadioBro is focused on developing innovative and cost-effective solutions for avionics, radio-frequency identification automotive tracking systems, and small spacecraft technologies. The company is one of the I²C’s first tenants.

"In working with the I²C, we are hoping to partner with like-minded companies to develop new technologies and approach new markets," says Mark Becnel, RadioBro’s president. "And we’re excited about the opportunity to partner with UAH research and academic programs to get a head start on the next big technological developments in the industry," adds Eric Becnel, the company’s vice president and chief product engineer.

The I²C is slated to open in late 2018 or early 2019, but that hasn’t prevented Joshi and his team from moving forward with their mission. In the meantime, they have taken up temporary residence at Executive Plaza, a newly purchased UAH property located on Sparkman Drive opposite the Bevill Center. There they have launched a 4,600-square-foot proof of concept (POC) facility to serve as an interim incubator under the I²C initiative. Their strategy is to begin development on a small number of startups at the POC and then transition those operations to the I²C when the facility goes live. "We are currently open for business in Suite 1040 of Executive Plaza and welcoming entrepreneurs and startups to join the I²C movement," says Joshi.

As of this spring, RadioBro has collaborated with Redstone Aviation, Invictus Aerospace Group, and ACE Creative Engagement at the POC, and the Becnels are already seeing the benefits of sharing the facility in the form of increased productivity and turnaround. "We could not be happier to have RadioBro as the first incubatee at the Executive Plaza location," says Joshi. With two or three additional small tech companies already in the pipeline, Joshi hopes the POC will be at full capacity in as little as three months. "We are looking forward to delivering quality support and resources for these promising startups to succeed," he says.


D.S. Davidson Invention to Innovation Center (I²C)