Embry-Riddle Announces Research Park Partners; Names Complex to Honor U.S. Rep. John Mica

The future of research at Embry-Riddle advanced to the next level this week when the university announced that seven Central Florida companies and organizations signed on as partners with the university and will be tenants in the John Mica Engineering and Aerospace Innovation Complex (MicaPlex). 

Currently under construction in Embry-Riddle’s Research Park in Daytona Beach, the MicaPlex is designed specifically for existing business, entrepreneurs, and startups looking to lead the next wave of industry innovation.

In a two-tier system that reflects varied areas of expertise, the Nexus Partners are International Speedway Corp. (professional sports) and DuvaSawko (healthcare business solutions). The Resident Partners are Cobb Cole (technology transfer legal services), FireSpring Fund (technology startup funding), James Moore (accounting), Vann Data Services (information technology) and venVelo (venture capital). Using the MicaPlex as their base, and collaborating with Embry-Riddle faculty and students, they will research, develop, and launch new technologies and business startups.

The announcement was made Tuesday to a standing-room only audience gathered next to the construction site on Clyde Morris Boulevard just south of the Daytona Beach Campus. Gathered on stage were the guest of honor, U.S. Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.); Volusia County Council Chairman Jason Davis; and Daytona Beach Mayor Derrick Henry. They were joined by Embry-Riddle officials Mori Hosseini, Chairman of the Board of Trustees; Dr. Karen Holbrook, Interim President; and Dr. Maj Mirmirani, Dean of the College of Engineering. Several other government and community officials, business leaders, and university trustees, faculty and staff were also in attendance.

View Embry-Riddle’s photos or read the Daytona Beach News-Journal’s coverage of the event

“We welcome our new partners in groundbreaking research endeavors,” said Dr. Holbrook. “Research underpins academic excellence and is key to our reputation and our future. It increases our value to our students, our community, and the industries we serve.”

Davis added, “I’m proud of our local businesses that are pooling their expertise in one central place here at the MicaPlex. These new partners represent some of the best talent not only in our county, but all of Central Florida.”

The MicaPlex will be home to comprehensive interdisciplinary research. It will attract industry and businesses who want access to Embry-Riddle’s faculty expertise, talented students, and the unique technical capabilities that will be developed on site, said Mirmirani. “Concepts and ideas created at the MicaPlex will be tested, proven, prototyped, patented, and commercialized, all in this building,” he said. “The main result will be patents, tech transfers, and startups.”

The MicaPlex is the cornerstone building in the Embry-Riddle Research Park, which has been awarded $14 million in grants from the state of Florida. Scheduled for completion in Spring 2017, the MicaPlex is a 50,000-square-foot, cutting-edge innovation hub designed to support research in aviation, space, engineering, unmanned systems, and the environment.

The MicaPlex will contain 10 technology-focused laboratories concentrating on such areas as materials, composites, radar technologies, sensors and electronics, robotics and unmanned systems, space technologies, and clean energy. The building includes 10,000 square feet of flex lease space, with half the building reserved for the expansion of College of Engineering laboratories. At full build-out, the Research Park will have 12 labs exclusively for the use of students.

Dr. Stephanie Miller, Embry-Riddle’s Director of Technology Transfer and Research Park Initiatives, will develop the business incubator housed in the MicaPlex, responsible for tenant recruiting, connecting incubator and research park companies to Embry-Riddle researchers, and designing programming and events for the local entrepreneur community.

In a few months, construction will start on another building in the MicaPlex that will house one of the largest and the most technologically advanced subsonic wind tunnels at any university in the United States.

Embry-Riddle’s 90-acre Research Park is well positioned to take advantage of its location and its resources to meet industry needs for research and skilled employees in Florida and beyond. Florida ranks No. 2 in the nation for aviation, aerospace, and space establishments. More than 2,000 aviation and aerospace companies call Florida home and employ a talent pool of nearly 80,000.

“Embry-Riddle is one of the best assets of Daytona Beach, generating $1.4 billion in annual economic activity in Florida,” said Mayor Henry. “It’s not just the Harvard of the Sky, it’s also the Stanford of Engineering.”

Volusia County Council Chairman Jason Davis is also enthusiastic about the future: “Embry-Riddle’s Research Park, and in particular the MicaPlex, provides the next valuable piece of the puzzle to connect Volusia County to key cities and businesses along the I-4 innovation corridor as well as north to Jacksonville and south to the Space Coast.  We are truly in a strategic position geographically and intellectually – supported by the brain trust and expanding capabilities at Embry-Riddle.”

Another function of the Tuesday ceremony was honoring Congressman Mica by officially naming the MicaPlex after him.

“John Mica has earned the deep respect of the aviation and aerospace industry from his many years of service as Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee,” said Hosseini. “We named the MicaPlex to acknowledge his ongoing role in supporting the university’s educational and research endeavors. He shares our commitment to expanding our research footprint. He recognizes that progress at Embry-Riddle equals growth for Florida aerospace and STEM-related careers as well as a huge win for our regional economy.”

“Thank you for this special recognition from an incredible university,” Mica said. “As I travel around the globe, I’ve noted that Embry-Riddle is considered the world’s premier aviation and aerospace university and is also renowned for its engineering programs. This building is all about the future. With this facility Embry-Riddle is moving into the Star Wars Age.”

At the conclusion of the event, company, organization officials and attendees were invited to sign a construction beam that will remain exposed in perpetuity in the MicaPlex to demonstrate a collective commitment to research and innovation.

Partner representatives attending the ceremony and who signed the beam included university Trustee Member Dr. Chuck Duva, CEO, DuvaSawko; Craig Neeb, Vice President of Business Development, International Speedway Corp.; Donna Mackenzie, Executive Director, FireSpring Fund; Tom Leek, Partner, Cobb Cole; Suzanne Forbes and Michael Sibley, Partners,  James Moore; Janice Huffstickler, President, and Todd Huffstickler (’85, DB), Executive Vice President, Vann Data Services; Allen Kupetz, Vice President and Professor at Rollins College, and Dr. Peter McAlindon (’89, DB), Vice President and Chief Community Relations Officer, venVelo.

Following the ceremony, Todd Huffstickler characterized the technological advances at Embry-Riddle as “phenomenal.”  “As an Embry-Riddle alumnus, I’m so excited that my company will have the opportunity to tap into the university’s academic expertise and state-of-the-art labs as well as collaborating with other businesses and startups,” he said.

The new partnership also deepens existing relationships in the community.

“International Speedway Corp. and Embry-Riddle both have over 50 years of working together in Daytona Beach, and we’re eager to be partners going into the future,” said Neeb. “The MicaPlex will enhance our technology innovation and collaboration efforts, resulting in new opportunities for our business.”


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Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University is the world’s largest, oldest and most comprehensive institution specializing in aviation, aerospace, engineering and related degree programs. A fully accredited university, Embry-Riddle is also a major research center, seeking solutions to real-world problems in partnership with the aerospace industry, other universities and government agencies. A nonprofit, independent institution, Embry-Riddle offers more than 100 associate, baccalaureate, master’s and Ph.D. degree programs in its colleges of Arts & Sciences, Aviation, Business, Engineering and Security & Intelligence. The university educates students at residential campuses in Daytona Beach, Fla., and Prescott, Ariz., through its Worldwide Campus with more than 135 locations in the United States, Europe and Asia, and through online programs. For more information, visit, follow us on Twitter (@EmbryRiddle) and, and find expert videos at