The University of Memphis has received a $1 million gift from Hilliard and Harriett
Crews to create a business start-up facilitator and incubator in the former Masonic
Lodge at Walker and Patterson near the main U of M campus. The Crews gift is half
of the $2 million needed to plan and complete the renovations as well as to establish
an early operations fund. The facility and programs will be called the Crews Ventures
Lab (CVL). The operation will be managed by the FedEx Institute of Technology at the
In making the gift, Hilliard Crews said, “The Ventures Lab at the University of
Memphis will provide a vibrant environment for promising researchers and local entrepreneurs
to collaborate on projects with real-world applications. Harriett and I are proud
to be engaged in the exciting research innovations and commercialization opportunities
happening at the University of Memphis. We are confident the Ventures Lab will have
a powerful and positive impact on Memphis and the entire region.”
|Harriett and Hilliard Crews
The goal is to open the CVL to the entrepreneurial community by the summer of 2012.
The space will provide a home for U of M students and faculty to build teams, develop
ideas and prototypes, meet with mentors and advisers and make pitches to local and
regional early-stage investors. It will include flex-space offices for students and
professors in which they can develop promising ideas into business plans intended
to attract initial investors and critical early team members.
To encourage proximity of companies to investors, mentors and advisers, the CVL will
also include furnished offices that will be available to experienced local entrepreneurs
on a day-to-day basis as they coach the CVL client entrepreneurs. Additionally, the
CVL client start-ups and pre-start-ups will have free access to professional conference
room space and a direct high-speed connection to the University’s super computer.
Around the world, local economic development has been shown to depend on the success
of technology entrepreneurs. The CVL will support local economic development by encouraging
and supporting the entrepreneurial faculty and students at the U of M to “take the
next step” in realizing their dreams of starting a company. The CVL will also be a
key driver and anchor for growth of the Highland/Walker development project.
“This gift from Mr. and Mrs. Crews is a wonderful vote of confidence in the University
and its potential to significantly impact local technology-based economic development
and to continue to contribute to the entrepreneurial environment in Memphis,” said
Dr. Doug Hurley, chairman of the FedEx Institute.
To assure that start-ups from the CVL work toward funding, early success and independence,
they will be expected to raise funds, launch their businesses and graduate to other
space, including EmergeMemphis. Plans for phase two of the CVL include a 3,000-square-foot
space for a prototype shop and product-design lab.
The importance of the new lab was detailed by Dr. Gary Emmert, Dunavant Professor
in the U of M’s Department of Chemistry.
“The proximity and availability of the CVL are both very important for U of M researchers
and entrepreneurs. The lab will obviously allow our fledgling companies to grow in
a supportive environment, but it will also allow them to do so in a location where
we can easily demonstrate to potential investors the world-class research facilities
just down the street, from which these ideas were hatched. Before the establishment
of the CVL, this was not possible.”
Georgia Tech has a longer association with such facilities, and Dr. H. Wayne Hodges,
vice provost for research emeritus there, told U of M officials it is important for
research campuses to have such incubator facilities nearby, convenient to faculty
and students, as the Crews Venture Lab will be.
— by Curt Guenther