As start-up companies grow, their missions often change. Their need for qualified employees grows, too.
For the companies that lease laboratory space at UNCW’s CREST Research Campus, that university connection can be invaluable as they navigate a rapidly changing marketplace.
For instance, I have seen one of our tenants thriving as it has evolved over the years. Once primarily an equipment supplier, it now also provides clients with a range of environmental testing services.
RED (Rapid Environmental Diagnostics) Labs LLC started out by selling a device that tests environmental samples for traces of petroleum and other hydrocarbons. This analyzer, developed by a company in Great Britain, allows testing to be done onsite, at about half the cost and a fraction of the time of previous laboratory methods.
That’s a new name, adopted just last April, the company’s owner Felecia Owen explained, to better brand her company’s services. It also helps distinguish her company from its British affiliate, which uses a similar name.
I wrote about Owen’s firm, then doing business as QROS LLC - QROS (Quick Results on Site), in October 2015.
RED Labs still has a relationship with the flagship QROS company, selling its QED ultraviolet fluorescence (UVF) analyzer. That hasn’t changed since the U.S. firm was founded in 2009.
“Our first task,” Owen said, “was to help them integrate that technology into the industry here in the U.S.” But over the years, she said, “We became more service-oriented.”
Along with the new name, Owen noted, her company has a new slogan: “When you need data fast.” She and her young staff carry out that promise in several ways.
If a client gathers soil or water samples on his or her own, it can submit them for rapid turnaround in the company’s laboratory on our campus. Or a client can choose an “emergency response” option.
“We’ll meet them on site tomorrow,” Owen explained, to take samples and analyze them on the spot.
Making that process even more cost-effective for clients, the company is now using and selling a brand-new technology - a “mini” gas chromatograph, which can identify all the elements in a sample in a matter of minutes. Compared to older and much bulkier versions of that device, Owens said it is “about the size of a brick, but a whole lot lighter.” Quicker, too, because both soil and water samples can be analyzed right in the field.
“Our prep period is probably at three minutes for every sample,” Owen said.
To help meet the challenges of new services and new technology, RED Labs has expanded its staff, now employing four interns from UNC-Wilmington. Two of them work full time and two are part-time.
“I hope that growth will continue to expand,” Owen said.
The interns have a background in environmental studies here at UNCW. They work both in the laboratory and in the field, doing on-site sampling and testing, and some are also working on market development.
The convenience of being able to easily find and employ well-qualified student interns is one of several benefits of her company’s location here, Owen noted. Working with these students on a temporary internship basis helps her to evaluate them for potential permanent jobs after graduation.
Another major advantage of working here, she said, is that “We’re able to much more heavily promote our in-lab analysis,” promising 24-hour turnaround.
That’s partly due to the quality of the laboratory space and equipment that Owen’s company uses. RED Labs also benefits from the boost to its reputation that it gets from being associated with the university.
Its clients include the North Carolina Department of Environment and National Resources and the state Department of Transportation (DOT). The DOT uses RED Labs’ equipment and services for the environmental assessments that are required before any new highway construction.
For all those reasons – the facilities, reputation and talent she has found on the CREST Research Campus – Owen said, “I’m really happy where we are here.”
UNCW CREST Research Park is a frontrunner 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.
UNCW CREST Research Park is a frontrunner 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 CREST. 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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