New home built for high-tech enterprises

by Hilary Thomson
Staff writer

Growing B.C. research companies have a new place to put down roots with the construction of the Donald Rix Building, the latest in a series of technology enterprise facilities located on campus.

The building is named after UBC clinical assistant professor of Pathology and B.C. entrepreneur Donald Rix, who contributed to the cost of the building.

"I've been saying for years that the future for B.C. lies in the high-tech community," says Rix. "When this opportunity came up, I thought it was time I put my money where my mouth is."

The $8.6 million building is currently under construction on UBC property at the corner of Health Sciences Road and Agronomy Mall. The almost 5,000-square-metre four-storey facility will house a variety of tenants and is being developed by Discovery Parks Inc. (DPI).

Tenants will pay market rents for space that can be designed according to their needs. DPI expects that half the building will house biotechnology companies and the other half will be leased to companies involved in information technology research when it opens next spring.

State-of-the-art infrastructure and support services for voice, data, fibre optic and coaxial cable connections are provided as well as campus services such as hazardous waste disposal.

"This new building is needed to accommodate the growth of new companies created on the basis of UBC research," says Angus Livingstone, managing director of the University-Industry Liaison Office.

WebCT Canada, a UBC spin-off company that produces Web-based educational software and has nearly 180 employees, is one of the building's new tenants.

"We could have moved to an office downtown at roughly the same cost but we wanted to stay on campus," says WebCT President Murray Goldberg. "Our employees who are faculty and alumni can keep their relationships with UBC colleagues, we can easily recruit graduates and employ senior students and I can continue to teach here."

There are 22 companies from pro-active to early-stage enterprises now located on campus in two technical enterprise facilities.

Most of the companies are UBC spin-offs. The remainder have research relationships with UBC. Profits from lease agreements are fed back into UBC research.

UBC ranks third in Canada and among the top 10 in North America for the number of companies created.

Major funding for the Rix Building was supplied by the Discovery Foundation which was founded in 1979 to develop facilities for high-tech industry in B.C.