DuPont, U.D., Gov. Carney seek millions for R&D hub (Update)

A partnership including the DuPont Co. and the University of Delaware has applied for $5 million in grants from the cash-strapped Delaware state government to help prepare the DuPont Experimental Station outside Wilmington to recruit new tenants, in hopes of generating tech jobs at small firms after DuPont cutbacks.

Delaware Innovation Space Inc. "is seeking a Delaware Strategic Fund Grant in an amount up to $5,000,000 over three years in partnership with the University of Delaware and DuPont" to get started at the Experimental Station, according to the agenda for Monday's meeting of the Delaware Economic Development Authority's Council on Development Finance.

The three-year grant, plus state economic and job programs, would be used to help attract "start-up, small, or expanding businesses with a potential for providing enhanced employment opportunities" in Delaware, according to the council.

UPDATE 4 p.m.: Gov. John Carney's office says Delaware Innovation Space Inc., a new entity, will be supported by the state, company and university like this, if it gets the state funding:

  1) Delaware: $5 million in startup funding support over 3 years from the Delaware Strategic Fund (pending approval Monday)
  2) DuPont: $1.25 million in startup funding; plus the donation of a "modern laboratory and office building at the Experimental Station," which the partners value at around $15 million; plus lab equipment worth up to $2 million. Plus "nonprofit startup costs"
  3) U of Delaware: $1.5 million in startup funding over three years; plus student internships

EARLIER: In a statement after I asked about the request, DuPont said the company, the state and the university "are excited to establish a new hub of science and technology — a business incubator to support early-stage science-based businesses, spur creativity, and attract and retain scientific talent in Delaware. We look forward to discussing the partnership with the Council on Development Finance on Monday and sharing additional details." 

DuPont, the pesticides, plastics, and synthetic fabrics-maker that was the most valuable U.S. company in the mid-1900s, built the station to develop new products.

In early 2016, the company reassigned, retired, laid off, or transferred most of its Central Research and Development group in advance of its planned merger with Dow Chemical Co. Work by groups assigned to individual DuPont businesses continues, as do projects run by Chemours Inc. and other DuPont spin-offs. See here and here and here.

CEO Edward Breen in January said the company plans to spend up to $200 million upgrading the station, which could provide research and development support for Dow and DuPont's successor companies (they plan to split into three). 

Then-Gov. Jack Markell told me last year that DuPont was also seeking new tenants to share expenses at the sprawling property, which occupies dozens of brick and concrete buildings in a bend of Brandywine Creek across from the company's historic gunpowder mills at Hagley.

The state and the company also approached the University of Delaware, whose chemical engineering department has long enjoyed close ties to DuPont, about playing a role at the center. 

The station partnership is seeking cash at a time when new Delaware Gov. John Carney and state legislators are scrambling to fill the holes in their budget created last year when Delaware agreed to corporate tax cuts worth tens of millions a year to help convince Dow and DuPont to leave the headquarters for two of their planned successor companies in the state.  

Delaware leaders chose to try and hang onto well-paid management and scientific jobs, and gave up taxes they were likely to lose anyway if the businesses moved to other states which were recruiting them. Now they're being asked to invest more in a post-DuPont future.