Chief Innovation and Collaboration Officer
Troy D. Hege
Vice President of Innovation and Technology
About Our Mission
L2L is an innovation platform of Purdue University (PU) and the Purdue Research Foundation (PRF). Lab To Life represents a series of test-bed environments curated specifically for enabling the application of novel and breakthrough technology in real-world contexts with actual end-users and use cases.
L2L is a “place in the middle” that bridges the gap between basic scientific research and commercialization. By bridging this gap, Lab to Life helps advance and accelerate technology readiness from discovery through development, validation, and demonstration for broad-based commercialization. We refer to this continuum as going from one to ten to a million. Purdue is a leading research university that is an engine for scientific discovery – the discovery being one; Lab to Life helps advance and accelerate technology through development and demonstration – the ten; and start-ups and commercial collaborators bring this innovation to the local community and the world ultimately helping to improve the lives of millions of people globally.
In the L2L environments, academic researchers and corporate partners can collaborate and advance solutions based on better understanding end user needs and issues, business model viability and strategy, and technology challenges and limitations that often may not be well characterized or understood with in a controlled lab environment.
L2L’s real-world environments are curated to rapidly test and evaluate next generation innovation by providing advanced technology infrastructure, an open innovation platform that supports partner engagement and collaboration, project management, community (end-user) engagement, and in some situations policy and governance authority. L2L environments can also foster eco-systems of partners from across an industry value chain who come together to collaborate with each other in addition to Purdue’s faculty and students.
The L2L environments include The Discovery Park District, The Purdue University Airport, and the Indiana Manufacturing Competitiveness Center, with additional environments being planned for agricultural and autonomous aerial (UAS) innovation. The projects being executed in the L2L environments typically utilize one or more technologies that increasingly require significant bandwidth and computing power. These technologies include advanced connectivity solutions, big data analytics, machine learning, artificial intelligence, digital twin, block chain, edge and cloud compute, various types of sensor arrays, and high performance computing.
The origins of L2L date back to 2019 and are based on a series of activities and events designed to evaluate the potential for DPD to become a leading innovation district. As identified through benchmarking visits, and as is still occurring today, communities are investing in technology and infrastructure to improve quality of life and promote community vitality.
In addition to these bench-marking visits, the Purdue Research Foundation (PRF) hosted a “smart city” workshop comprised of companies, Purdue faculty, PRF staff, and subject matter experts in five areas including: (i) digital connectivity, (ii) energy sustainability; (iii) advanced mobility, (iv) innovation and entrepreneurship, and (v) quality of place. The workshop produced a set of ideas and “smart city” recommendations for DPD to consider alongside the master plan for real-estate development.
Digital connectivity was identified as the focal point for “smart city” activities for several reasons. First as the world transitions towards the digital age, advanced connectivity infrastructure (i.e., 5G networks, IOT, AI) is critical for prospective residents and companies and is increasingly being viewed as essential much like power and water infrastructure. Second, connectivity is a key enabler to other “smart” applications and foundational to the creation of an innovation eco-system that is well aligned with Purdue’s newly launched Purdue Computes and Institute for Physical Artificial Intelligence initiatives. Third, connectivity investment requirements and business models are rapidly evolving allowing DPD to leverage third-parties willing to invest return driven capital into connectivity infrastructure and projects. Finally, based on the limited build-out of the DPD community at the time and the ability to leverage infrastructure investment, the timing was ideal.
To enable future evolution of the connectivity platform – especially in advancing technology and innovation – PRF selected Tilson, a major, independent connectivity infrastructure partner for the build-out and operation of DPD’s planned neutral host connectivity platform that includes a fiber network, an edge data center, private cellular network, and a commercial cellular tower for mobile network operators.
In 2021 with the core elements of the connectivity platform in place, PRF created a Technology Leadership Advisory Board (TLAB) comprised of a complementary set of CTO’s from leading technology companies to advance innovation projects in collaboration with Purdue faculty and researchers. Like an academic core lab, the open nature of the connectivity platform enabled PRF to leverage the asset across DPD to support engagement with companies looking to advance new, smart and connected technologies and innovations to the market. The connectivity platform, operating model, and governance became known as “Lab To Life” and the L2L innovation platform was born.