ACC awarded $7.5 million NSF grant to build national biotechnology network

New center will expand biotechnology education and encourage research opportunities at 2-year colleges nationwide

The Austin Community College District (ACC) was awarded a $7.5 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to develop a new national biotechnology education center to address the rapidly growing need for highly skilled technicians in biotechnology. 

The InnovATEBIO National Biotechnology Education Center — named for the connectivity between advanced technological education (ATE) and biotechnology education (BIO) — will consolidate several biotech education projects into a national network to share best practices and expand research opportunities for students at two-year institutions.

“This center will transform the educational landscape,” says Dr. Richard Rhodes, ACC president/CEO. “With our partners, ACC will foster connections between students, institutions, industry, and community. By galvanizing these connections, we can ensure that the biotechnology sector continues to thrive with a pipeline of highly skilled graduates. Our students gain early research experience, hands-on training, and marketable skills that employers are looking for. Together, we are bridging gaps in biotechnology education.”


Biotechnology is one of the fastest-growing industries in Central Texas and across the nation. Industry companies make up almost 30 percent of Austin’s life science cluster, according to the Austin Chamber of Commerce. The InnovATEBIO Center will build a national network of educators, students, alumni, and industry partners including incubators, trade organizations, and professional societies to develop and share best practices in biotechnology workforce development. Partners include:

  • Finger Lakes Community College | Canandaigua, New York

  • Forsyth Technical Community College | Winston-Salem, North Carolina

  • Madison College | Madison, Wisconsin

  • Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (DNA Learning Center) | Cold Spring Harbor, New York

  • NY City College of Technology | New York, New York

  • Digital World Biology | Seattle, Washington

  • Bay Area Bioscience Center (CSBI Group) | San Francisco, California

  • Bay Area Bioscience Education Community | San Francisco, California

  • Baltimore City Community College | Baltimore, Maryland

  • Washington State University | Pullman, Washington


The InnovATEBIO Center also will focus on biotechnology technician education across the country, with a specific focus on strengthening connections between high school and community college programs to increase the number of high school students recruited to biotechnology. The center also will provide early research experience and hands-on learning opportunities in the community college. 

“Studies have shown that students find research more engaging than pre-planned exercises. Those who have participated in research are also more likely to stick with science in college and pursue careers in science,” says Linnea Fletcher, chair of Austin Community College’s Biotechnology Department and executive director of the AC2 Bio-Link Regional Center and the new InnovATEBIO Center. “We can better meet the needs of our industries and communities by redefining the way we teach. The nation will not be able to fill high-tech research and development positions without engaging with its most diverse student populations, which can largely be found on community colleges.”

The five-year grant will begin this month.


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