The Hub


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UF Innovate | The Hub is a business incubator with a mission to build, drive and support the spirit of innovation. We are the “hub” of the North Central Florida entrepreneurial ecosystem with a global outreach. We offer state-of-the-art wet laboratory, light manufacturing and office space, along with advising, mentoring, education and programs and amenities to help you succeed. We have resident and affiliate programs available to assist every startup and small business.

The original 48,000-square-foot facility was built with an $8.2 million grant from the federal Economic Development Administration and a $5 million commitment from the University of Florida. After it opened in October 2011, the incubator demonstrated such success that the EDA awarded a second $8 million grant, to which UF added an additional $9 million in 2015. The expansion opened in January 2018, doubling the facility to a total of 100,000 square feet.

Since the addition of the UF Innovate | The Hub, the entrepreneurial landscape and culture of Gainesville have experienced an amazing transformation, and the incubator is recognized as a major catalyst in helping propel the university city to become one of the top energized tech communities in the Southeast. Much more than a building, the Hub provides a complete growth ecosystem that leverages the prestige of the university’s research and technology commercialization prowess and combines that with programming, resources and networking opportunities designed to support small startups and growth companies.

Our Companies

Join our community of startups and growth companies that share resources.


Client Resources

View the resources designed around the unique needs of startups and small companies.


Advisory Board

Seek the advice of seasoned executives and serial entrepreneurs. 


When you give to the Hub, you give back to the community. 


Contact Info

Address & Directions

UF Innovate | The Hub
747 SW Second Avenue, IMB #47
Gainesville, Florida 32601


Staff Directory


Photo of Mark S. Long Mark S. Long Director of Incubation Services

Mark is the director of incubation services at UF. This includes UF Innovate | Sid Martin Biotech and UF Innovate | The Hub. He focuses on incubating companies according to industry best practices efforts, utilizing sales and marketing techniques and entrepreneurial mentoring.

Mark was the former President and CEO of the Indiana University Research and Technology Corporation (IURTC), which owned and operated the Indiana University Emerging Technologies Center (IUETC), a life sciences incubator, and Mark served as President and CEO of that facility. Mark was also President and CEO of the Midwest Proton Radiotherapy Institute, a cancer treatment facility located at Indiana University, during his tenure at IURTC. Mark was the former Director of Technical Operations at Washington University in St. Louis.

Mark has a B.S. in biology and an M.S. in Molecular Biology from Florida State University. He attended both Florida Atlantic University and Indiana University for work on his Ed.D. He has been a member of the NBIA for 12 years and authored the books “Put It In Writing 2”, “Wholesale Economic Development”, and writes a blog on incubation titled IncubatorBlogger.

Photo of Merrie Shaw Merrie Shaw Assistant Director of Incubation Services

Merrie focuses on the life science incubator, Sid Martin Biotech, where she manages the day to day operations as well as promotes Incubation Services and recruits companies. Merrie oversees finance, budgets, administration and human resources. Merrie has attended numerous management classes at the International Business Innovation Association (InBIA) conferences and training sessions, and she helped the Sid Martin incubation program win global incubator of the year awards twice, in 2013 and again in 2017.

Merrie has been with UF for 13 years. Previously, she was an orthopedic surgical assistant in south Florida for 15 years, and then she assisted various hospital
foundations with fund raising.

Merrie earned an AS degree from Santa Fe College, surgical tech certification from Manatee College and her Incubator Management Certification from INBIA.

The Hub Staff

Photo of Justin Herres Justin Herres Administrative Support

Justin greets all guests who enter The Hub, answers the main phone line, handles company inquiries, and manages incoming and outgoing packages for clients in the building. He connects clients and guests with the appropriate staff person or service for their need.

Most important, Justin keeps The Hub safe by ensuring that all those who visit follow proper procedures: signing in and waiting for their respective host to come down and meet them.

Before joining The Hub staff, Justin worked for over 10 years in retail management and served as general manager of a small business. He also acted as an Accounts Receivable/ Payable employee of a local company

Justin attends the University of Central Florida online, working toward his bachelor’s degree in international and global studies, with a minor in legal studies. He is teaching himself 7 different languages: Spanish, German, Hawaiian, Japanese, Korean, Russian, and Norwegian.

Photo of Elliott Welker Elliott Welker Client Services Manager

Elliott works on programs and progress for startup companies and recently launched the Innovate NaviGator pilot program, which includes gathering and posting information for communitywide events for entrepreneurs.

Before joining UF Innovate, Elliott was a business development intern for ReliOx Corporation, a resident startup at Sid Martin Biotech; a legal assistant for Robert S. Griscti, Esq., assisting him in his practice of white-collar criminal law, criminal defense, federal and state litigation, professional licensing and appeals; and volunteered with the North Central Florida Chapter of the Federal Bar Association.

He earned his BA in history with a minor in teaching English as a second language (2013) and MBA focusing on entrepreneurship and marketing (2017) from UF. He was a Bob Graham Center for Public Service Student Fellow and Poe Center for Business Ethics Education and Research MBA Fellow.

Photo of Courtney Janka Courtney Janka Facilities Operations Specialist

Courtney oversees the maintenance, housekeeping and general upkeep of the 100,000 square foot technology incubator. She manages the inventory of building assets, space allocation, as well as the accounts payable approver. She also serves as the liaison between the resident clients at The Hub and UF departments such as Information Technology, Facilities Services and Environmental Health and Safety. Courtney interfaces with clients on a daily basis to solve problems, manage space and create growth opportunities. She also handles event management, including room layouts, catering management and scheduling. She manages data input and data management for IncutrackTM, the contact management system for The Hub.

Before joining UF Innovate in 2017, Courtney was the Facilities and Administration Manager at Naylor Association Solutions located in Gainesville. She was responsible for a 60,000 square foot commercial building, served as executive assistant to the CEO, as well as coordinated events. Prior to relocating to Gainesville, Courtney worked for 13 years in the print media industry in a variety of roles including media buying, sales, and production.

Courtney earned her B.S in advertising from the University of Florida.

Photo of Jennifer Harrell Jennifer Harrell Finance & Administration Manager

Jennifer joined UF Innovate | The Hub in 2016 and oversees finance, administration, and operations. She serves as a link between leadership, fellow team members, and clients by handling questions, interpreting and administering policies/procedures, and solving problems. Jennifer manages the daily financial and contractual functions for The Hub, including financial statements and projections for operations, sponsorships, and grants. She is responsible for onboarding new client companies, ensuring satisfaction/retention, negotiating client space, setting pricing structures, and managing legal documentation and insurance. She also manages social media content and event logistics for The Hub.

Jennifer has over a decade of experience in both the public and private sectors of real estate law, finance, and accounting. Before moving into the business arena, she worked in some of Atlanta’s best restaurants serving, bartending, and managing as the ultimate “multitasker.”

She obtained her AA degree in Business Administration from Santa Fe College and a BS in Accounting from UF. She has UF supervisory, Human Resources, and fiscal management certificates; is a Florida Notary; and is a participant in the Gainesville Chamber of Commerce Leadership development program.

Photo of Lissette Garces Lissette Garces Fiscal Specialist 2

Lissette processes accounts receivable, disbursements, credit card reconciliation, journal entries, and travel expenses for The Hub. She prepares monthly invoices for Hub clients and maintains the sub-ledger accounting system including posting monthly transactions to the general ledger. Lissette also assists the Operations & Accounting manager with monthly reconciliations and financial reports and provides support for all internal and external Hub events.

Before joining The Hub in 2017 as a front desk receptionist, Lissette worked with a law firm and the hospitality industry. She has many years of experience in customer service, billing, and administration.

Lissette has an AA in Business from Miami Dade College and is completing her bachelor’s in psychology from the Florida International University. She is completing her Fiscal Management Certificate at UF. She speaks English and Spanish.

Photo of Sara Dagen Sara Dagen Marketing & Communications Manager

Sara handles marketing and communications for all of the entities under UF Innovate. On any given day, she might mine news about our startups or innovators to share on social media, edit website content or find a fix for one more glitch, create flyers or documents for events, plan events, or write articles about the exciting happenings at UF Innovate.

After joining the UF Innovate team in 2014, Sara worked her way up from a technical editor to the communications manager. In these capacities, Sara is forced to use both sides of her brain, interpreting science speak to communicate to a business audience. Previously, she used both sides of her brain teaching Algebra and English to middle and high school students. She also worked at The Gainesville Sun as a writer and editor.

Sara holds a B.S. in journalism and a M.Ed. in educational technology from the University of Florida.

Photo of Veronica Talavera Veronica Talavera Marketing & Communications Specialist

Veronica is the marketing and communications specialist for UF Innovate. In that role, she handles a number of projects from Tech Licensing, The Hub, and Sid Martin Biotech, which includes working with student interns, editing and marketing non-confidential summaries of innovations from UF researchers, creating flyers, updating the UF Innovate website, promoting UF and incubator startups on the website and on social media, and so much more.

She has gained extensive experience in the production of various marketing and public relations materials, large-scale event planning, marketing campaigns, and research. As program manager for the Collaboratory for Women Innovators, Veronica gained experience working with entrepreneurs and innovators as well as a passion for the entire innovation ecosystem that exists under the UF Innovate umbrella. She is a former Corporate Social Responsibility Coordinator for a supermarket chain and a Public Relations Executive for a full-service, global creative boutique that specializes in marketing and communications strategies, among other roles in her field of expertise, in Honduras.

Veronica obtained her bachelor’s degree in Communication and Advertising from the Central American Technological University (UNITEC) in Honduras, a specialization in Public Relations and Organizational Communication at the Journalism and Advertising University (CUPP) in Mexico and her master’s degree in Marketing Management in UNITEC.