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Business Growth
Oct 1, 2015

Shared Lab Space Offers Young Tech Company Room To Grow

Sponsored Content provided by Daniel G. Baden - Executive Principal, Marine Biotechnology in North Carolina (MARBIONC)

Having a great new product isn’t always enough to help a company keep growing. Sometimes an investment in infrastructure is necessary, too, and that can be a major obstacle for a small firm. Offering state-of-the-art laboratory space to our tenants is one way that UNCW’s CREST Research Park can help a young enterprise develop.
 
A current example of this is QROS LLC, a Wilmington company that has revolutionized the business of testing soil and water for hazardous chemicals. Since its start in 2009, QROS has gotten regulatory approval for its new equipment, a device called the QED ultraviolet fluorescence (UVF) analyzer. This allows environmental samples to be tested for traces of petroleum on site, instead of in a laboratory, at roughly half the cost of old methods.
 
The company’s name explains its mission. QROS stands for “Quick Results on Site.” Its hardware can detect trace amounts of hydrocarbons and chlorinated solvents like dry-cleaning fluids in the field, without the delays of days or weeks that were once common.
 
As this technique has become accepted in the world of environmental hazard mitigation, QROS has begun to branch out, offering a wider range of services. Instead of being just a hardware manufacturing company, it is now offering a range of analytical services, too. And there lies the challenge, and the opportunity.
 
Felicia Owen, owner of QROS’s U.S. operation, explained that her company is now offering clients three options. First, the company can use its equipment and have its technicians take the samples and analyze them. “We do it all,” she said Second, QROS can train contractors to use its equipment and lease the hardware to them. But for many clients, the best balance of time and money is a third option: collecting their own soil or water samples, and sending them to QROS to be analyzed using the new UVF technology.
 
“We needed a very nice laboratory situation,” Owen said, to be able to effectively market that third option. Partnering with UNCW and CREST Research Park allowed QROS to avoid the time lag and financial drag of having to develop its own lab space. “There’s not a lab anywhere with better functionality,” she said, than the facility her company began using just this past August. The connection with UNCW, she added, “has given our clients a lot more confidence” in her young company’s ability to deliver on its testing services.
 
From the university’s perspective, this partnership has important benefits. First, QROS is not a raw startup. In its six years, it has perfected technology developed by Owen’s British partner and made it a viable product. Just as important, it has done the hard work of getting reluctant state regulators to approve the new testing methods. “This technique can save half of your analytical budget,” Owen said of agencies like North Carolina’s Department of Environment and Natural Resources. DENR approved the QED UVF analyzer in 2012. Now the N.C. Department of Transportation has also adopted QROS’s methods and equipment for use by its contractors when they perform environmental assessments. Owen, by the way, is no novice, either. She has been involved in environmental assessments and analysis for 30 years.
 
Just as important as its track record, QROS is looking toward the future. Owen says she wants to work with UNCW to develop its technology for use in marine environments. Now it’s primarily used to test soil and groundwater on land sites like abandoned gas stations, dry cleaning shops, industrial sites and the like. But in the future, it could readily be adapted for use in environmental assessments for offshore oil exploration, and for monitoring compliance in working oil fields.
 
UNCW CREST Research Park is a front-runner in marine biotech research and development. Researchers are exploring the potential of natural products derived from the sea to treat or cure human diseases and meet other important needs.
 
Discover why rising biotechnology and life sciences groups from all over the country are moving to UNCW CREST Research Park. UNCW CREST Research Park offers top-notch commercial laboratories available for lease at affordable rates, flexible terms, and innovative product development opportunities that are unmatched by any other park. Connect with CREST at [email protected] today.

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