The University of Connecticut Board of Trustees approved the budget for two Tech Park projects Wednesday.

The board approved a $162.3 million design budget for the Innovation Partnership building, and $20.3 million for the extension of North Hillside Road.

The Innovation Partnership building will be the first of several buildings in the new tech park, which will be located a half mile north of the Storrs campus.

Jhansi Katechia
North Hillside Road extension construction begins (Jhansi Katechia)

When it’s completed in 2017 the building is expected to be 112,000 square feet. It will house shared, speciality laboratories with highly specialized equipment for use by industry scientists and business entrepreneurs, who will work side-by-side with UConn researchers.

In order for the tech park to be accessible to those coming from outside the campus, North Hillside Road will be extended about 3,400 feet to join Route 44. The final budget for the road extension is $20.3 million. About $5.8 million will come from the federal government and rest, $14.5 million, will come from the state.

At Wednesday’s meeting, UConn Master Planner and Chief Architect Laura Cruickshank announced that construction of the road extension has already started.

But aside from the bricks, mortar, and asphalt, UConn also has focused on creating partnerships with the businesses and industries that will occupy the buildings.

Several partnerships already have been developed, including a $10-million partnership with the United Technologies Corporation Institute of Advanced Systems Technology, a $7.5-million partnership with the GE Center of Excellence for Advanced Materials and Manufacturing, and a $7.5-million partnership with Pratt & Whitney Additive Manufacturing Innovation Center.

UConn Provost Mun Choi introduced these Next Generation Connecticut partnerships at a legislative meeting Tuesday.

“We’re very pleased at the amount of industry involvement,” Sen. Gary LeBeau said Tuesday. “I think it’s precisely what we’re looking for, precisely what the state needs. The partnerships you are forming with industry will have tremendous benefits down the road.”

Sen. Steve Cassano also praised the efforts, but expressed concern that UConn is not doing enough to communicate its expansion plans.

“My concern is we are not doing the job of letting people know who UConn is. It would make it a lot easier for this building to appropriate the money when people understand what it’s being spent for,” Cassano said Tuesday.

UConn President Susan Herbst addressed Cassano’s concerns at Wednesday’s meeting. She said that UConn needs to keep the conversation going by telling the public how research ties into education.

Herbst said that the two tie together because research brings in federal grants to Connecticut, which in turn multiplies their effect on the state economy. She also noted that research creates new jobs, leads to the creation of start-up companies, and is what will put UConn on the map.

Herbst said UConn is very late in their acceleration of scientific partnerships with industries, relative to their peer universities, but they can catch up with these initial projects.

“If UConn is to reach the very top tier of universities, public and private, we have to innovate. We have to invent. There’s no other way to get ahead,” Herbst said.

The tech park is set to open in 2017.