University Economic Development Association


MERGE Innovation Space

Award Category: Place+Innovation
Project Site: MERGE Innovation Space
Submitted By: Iowa City Area Development Group / University of Iowa
Contact: Tom Banta, 563.506.3280

Case Study

The MERGE Innovation Space is designed to create and cultivate a knowledge ecosystem for entrepreneurs and startups, offering vital resources and connections to successfully create, launch, and grow new companies in the Iowa City – Cedar Rapids area. This region was devastated by the Floods of 2008 and has been working ever since to diversify the local economy to better align with new realities of the global economy. In an effort to catalyze more new business formation, the MERGE space provides incubation space (15 private offices) for entrepreneurial startups, primarily tech-based, co-working bench space (40 seats) for creatives and remote workers, and a full prototype lab with 3D printing and related equipment such that ideas can quickly move through prototype stage to become viable products. MERGE provides the unique opportunity for people across a number of professions to meet and work in a space where innovation and creativity thrive. Being immersed in such an innovative hub sparks a contagious fire around the office increasing productivity, creativity, and a team-oriented spirit.

The space was formed through a partnership between The City of Iowa City, the local economic development group, Iowa City Area Development (ICAD), and the The University of Iowa Office of Economic Development.  Additional partners include the John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center, Proto-Studios, Small Business Development Center, Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, and Kirkwood Community College.

The space opened to the public May 2017 and in the past year we have seen about 85% occupancy in our private offices, and have about 40 active co-working members.

Finalist Presentation

UEDA Awards of Excellence Finalists presented at the Annual Summit in Milwaukee on October 22 and 23, 2018. Summit attendees then voted for the best initiative in each category.