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UD requests $6.5M from state for FinTech fit-out

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The future FinTech Innovation Hub at the University of Delaware’s STAR Campus will need $14 million to continue fit-out for companies. The university had requested $6.5 million from the state. | DBT PHOTO BY JACOB OWENS

DOVER — Amid $70 million in state funding requests to address deferred maintenance or a potential new academic building, the University of Delaware is also looking for funding to forge on with its financial services technology building.

UD requested $6.5 million in capital improvement funding from the state to continue fit-out work at its six-story FinTech Innovation Hub on the STAR Campus. With the funding, UD plans to install state-of-the-art labs to support research and attract new companies to Newark. Gov. John Carney’s budget proposal allocated $15 million for UD, although the state will see an estimated $800 million budget surplus this year while also retaining some federal COVID-19 relief funding.

“Once this opens later this year, it will become a source of highly skilled workers in innovative research in exciting new intellectual property for Delaware’s strong and growing financial technology sector,” UD President Dennis Assanis told the state legislature’s Joint Capital Improvement Committee during his Thursday presentation.

Announced in 2019, the $38 million project was planned to host programs such as a cybersecurity leadership center that would link the Alfred Lerner College of Business & Economics’s cybersecurity management with the College of Engineering’s cybersecurity engineering and technology, a space for human-machine learning and social media data analysis and a multimedia studio.

With 100,000 square feet of floor space, the building is a partnership between UD, the Delaware Technology Park and Discover Bank. In the last two years, tenants like the Kendal Corporation, Discover Bank, national fintech firm the Venture Center, and supply chain IT startup RAAD360 have signed agreements with the university. 

Other associations like National Institute for Innovation in Manufacturing Biopharmaceuticals (NIIMBL) will move its workforce development program to the building along with the Delaware BioScience Association, IT training program Tech Impact and the nonprofit research firm the Financial Health Network.

Assanis estimates that complete fit-out for the FinTech hub would cost $14 million. The state has already provided $3 million through the Higher Education Economic Development Fund, and industry partners funded another $4.5 million.

“Constructing the building is only the first step though. It needs millions in partitions, cabling, wiring and furnishing and other works to make it suitable for occupancy and heavy big labs that we need in the building,” Assanis said.

The UD president also argued the FinTech center has the chance to position the university and Newark as the future of financial services in the state. A new era of credit operations is growing, as small start-ups and established firms focus on fintech to reach “near-prime” credit customers.

“The extensive investments that the university is making are helping to drive progress in health, in engineering, in business in many other areas that would benefit Delaware  today and for many years to come,” Assanis said.

While the FinTech building was the only project highlighted for construction funds, the University of Delaware is also seeking $50 million to address needed upgrades at its engineering buildings. Another $20 million was requested to address deferred maintenance at other facilities.

UD has roughly $500 million in deferred maintenance since Fiscal Year 2018, with $200 million alone in buildings surrounding the university’s central Green. But Assanis noted that during the pandemic, UD was forced to scale back its spending on deferred maintenance projects as part of many hard decisions during 2020.

Looking at its competitors like Penn State University and Rutgers University, which received sizable financial support from their state legislature to build new engineering buildings, Assanis hoped that lawmakers in Delaware would do the same. 

UD is considering whether to build a new facility or renovate its existing engineering building. Such a project would cost an estimated $200 million, and the requested $50 million would be a fraction of the total expense.

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