History | ISU Research Park

History

Iowa State University Research Park was founded to provide the space and resources needed to advance science-based initiatives.

ISU Research Park is operated by the ISU Research Park Corporation. The ISU Research Park Corporation was established in 1987 as a not-for-profit, independent corporation operating under a Board of Directors appointed by Iowa State University and the ISU Foundation.

ISU Research Park owns and operates 10 of 12 buildings on its campus, including technology and wet-dry lab incubators. The additional 2 buildings are owned and operated by private development groups. In 30 years of serving researchers and businesses, ISU Research Park has seen incredible growth and even more amazing innovation from its tenants.

Currently, ISU Research Park tenants employ more than 2,000 employees — a number projected to nearly double by 2025. Approximately 300 student interns are employed at ISU Research Park at any given time. Companies that have relocated from ISU Research Park still employ nearly 2,500 Iowans — proving that ISU Research Park has significant impact well beyond Ames.

In The Park’s more than 25 years serving researchers and businesses, ISU Research Park has seen incredible growth and even more amazing innovation from its tenants.

Some of the breakthroughs that have taken place at ISU Research Park include:

  • Development of an ebola vaccine from NewLink Genetics
  • Secure cloud-based financial reporting from Workiva (formerly WebFilings)
  • Genome editing in commercial crops by Phytodyne, now a part of BASF Plant Sciences
  • Thin, flexible solar panel film that can serve both military and personal purposes from PowerFilm
  • Visualization, 3-D rendering and data analysis utilized for disaster planning and preparedness by Priority 5

Interested in being a part of ISU Research Park’s success stories? Contact us to begin making history of your own.

Did You Know?

Three of Iowa’s last four initial public offerings (IPO) were ISURP companies (Webfilings, Workiva, & NewLink Genetics).

1990 – Engineering Animation

Engineering Animation was an Ames-based software company originally started in 1990 by Martin Vanderploeg, Jay Shannan, Jim Bernard, and Jeff Trom, a group of Ames and Iowa State engineers. The founding members of Engineering Animation were all closely associated with Iowa State’s Virtual Reality Application Center, or VRAC, with Jim Bernard serving as the director of the project. Engineering Animation found its start creating computer animations to aid courtroom testimonies. In 1994, the launch of the company’s VisLab program entirely changed computer animation, allowing animations to be rendered using hardware instead of software, and became a commercial success. VisLab would be updated into the first commercial 3D animation software known as VisFly and then VisMockup. VisMockup would account for a majority of Engineering Animation’s revenue. The company was acquired by Unigraphics in 2000, which is now a subsidiary of Siemens AG.

1996 – Mechdyne

Mechdyne is a global broad-based technology company and was originally started by former Iowa State students Chris Clover, Jim Gruening, and Kurt Hoffmeister while they worked at VRAC under Jim Bernard. They took part in multiple consulting projects including the construction of a virtual reality fire-fighting simulator for the Navy. Mechdyne would then go on to become a solutions expert in Virtual Reality. This expertise would expand as the company grew beyond VR into a broad base of technological problems and products including IT, security, and software. In 2000, Mechdyne would construct The C6, a virtual reality environment room and the most immersive of its kind in the world. Mechdyne would also take part in the multimillion-dollar upgrade of the C6 in 2008.

1997 – Cimtechnologies

Cimtechnologies was a software manufacturing firm started in 1987 by Iowa State engineering professor David Sly, and was the first student company at Iowa State’s research park. Cimtech focused on factory layout software and was used to design and analyze factory layouts and was utilized by companies such as Boeing, Caterpillar, Ford Motors, and John Deere. The company was acquired by Engineering Animation in 1997, where Cimtechnologies software would be integrated with EAI’s 3D visualization capabilities.

1999 – IMED Studios

IMED Studios was a visualization and application developer founded in 1999 by former EAI employees. The company focused on medical visualization, programming, and editing for publishing companies, pharmaceutical companies, and advertising agencies. The company was acquired in 2010 by Publicis Healthware International, an international healthcare consulting agency.

2000 – Unigraphics

Unigraphics was a software company founded in 1963 that focused on product lifecycle management software solutions. In 1991, Unigraphics was acquired by Electronic Data Systems, and in 2000, Unigraphics would acquire Engineering Animation. EDS sold Unigraphics to a private equity group, and Unigraphics was eventually sold off again to Siemens AG, which absorbed the company and all of its subsidiaries. Unigraphics would then be renamed Siemens PLM Software.

2001 – Demonstratives

Demonstratives was a graphics and animation provider for legal teams founded in 2001 and based in Ames, Iowa. The company was started by Dan Kruger, an Iowa State graduate and former Project Manager at Engineering Animation. After Engineering Animations’ buyout, the graphics team would become a part of Demonstratives. Demonstratives focused on aiding courtrooms and legal teams through 3D and 2D animations similar to the work done at EAI. In 2014, Demonstratives was bought by ESI, an engineering analysis and investigation firm.

2002 – Phasient

Phasient was an eLearning company founded in 2002 by former EAI executive Dan Murray. Dan Murray worked at VRAC and EAI while getting his undergraduate in mechanical engineering at Iowa State. After EAI was bought by Unigraphics, Phasient was founded. Phasient specializes in accessible eLearning through CLaaS or cloud learning as a service giving users access to the service anywhere an internet connection is available. The service contained a library of preloaded training and images that could be custom-designed for different companies and scenarios. It also contained the ability to track user’s progress and develop reports.

2002 – Proplanner

Proplanner is a software company focused on product lifecycle management in manufacturing and assembly lines founded by Iowa State professor and former EAI executive David Sly. The company focuses on product lifecycle management software that encompasses the full scope of manufacturing including assembly, management, design, and execution.

2003 – Inv3rsion

Inv3rsion is a New Hampshire-based virtual reality, augmented reality, and medical software company founded in 2003 by former VRAC graduate assistant Todd Furlong. Inv3rsion focuses on applied 3D visualization and has worked on projects such as the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive.

2004 – Murray Consulting

Murray Consulting was a software consulting team founded in 2004 by former EAI executive Dan Murray. The company focused on sales force automation software, working with companies such as Principal Financial Group and Pfizer.

2007 – Siemens AG

Siemens AG is a German-based international conglomerate founded in 1847. Siemens AG accounts for over 360,000 employees and $90 billion in revenue as of 2020. The company owns a wide range of subsidiaries, most notably in industrial automation and healthcare. In 2007, Siemens AG acquired Unigraphics, along with its subsidiary Engineering Animation.

2007 – Bodyviz

Bodyviz is a medical software and education startup located in Clive, IA. It was founded in 2007 by Iowa State faculty James Oliver and Eliot Winer, along with medical doctor Thom Lobe. Bodyviz is deeply rooted within VRAC, as James Oliver served as Director of VRAC for the last 15 years and is the inaugural director of Iowa State’s student innovation center. Eliot Winter currently serves as the director for VRAC. Bodyviz focuses on interactive anatomy visualization, which allows students and doctors to learn about the body and perform “digital procedures.” These anatomical animations come pre-loaded, or patient’s data can be uploaded and used within the software.

2008 – Workiva

Workiva, originally known as Webfilings, is a global software-as-a-service company founded in 2008 and headquartered in Ames, Iowa. Former Engineering Animation founder Martin Vanderploeg and former EAI CEO Matthew Rizai were founding members of the company with Vanderploeg serving as current CEO. Five other founders were also among the executive team at Engineering Animation. In 2010, Workiva released Wdesk, its main product, and the first cloud-based software-as-a-service platform, which allowed for the integration of different company data into a single report, as well as filing documentation to government agencies such as the SEC. Workiva now has offices in 18 cities worldwide, and Wdesk is used by 75% of Fortune 500 companies.

2009 – Bitmethod

Bitmethod was a Des Moines-based web and mobile app developer founded by Daniel Shipton, a graduate assistant working in VRAC, and his partner Neil Roberts. BitMethod focused on development for both clients and internal products, the biggest of these being Change. Change was an ios based cash register app and point of sale system made to replace physical cash registers in stores and restaurants. What made it different from previous retail transaction apps was its customizable experience and easily integratable third-party add ons.

2009 – iSO-FORM

iSO-FORM is a software development and 3D visualization company founded in 2009 and headquartered in Ames, Iowa. iSO-FORM specializes in animation, interactive technology, and illustration in the science and medical field. The company was a product of former employees of Engineering Animation and IMED.

2010 – Publicis Healthware International

Publicis Healthware International, originally known as Healthware Consulting, is an international healthcare consulting agency founded in 1996 in Naples, Italy. The company focuses on consulting, communications, and technology in the healthcare world. In 2010, the company acquired Ames-based visualization company IMED Studios after it underwent a merger with Publicis Healthware International.

2014 – ESI

ESI is an engineering analysis and investigation firm founded in 1987. In 2014, ESI acquired Demonstratives Inc., a spinoff of Engineering Animation, to bolster their visualization team. ESI’s visualization sector focuses on all aspects of data visualization and data collection such as virtual reality, 3D printing, animation, and laser scanning.

2017 – Vertex

Vertex is a 3D visualization and cloud computing company founded in 2017 by former Engineering Animation executive Dan Murray and is currently headquartered in Ames, Iowa. The team behind Vertex was involved in both Engineering Animation as well as Workiva using expertise in both EAI’s animation and Workiva’s cloud computing with Vertex focusing on 3D rendering in the cloud. The company’s software is utilized in Aerospace, Automotive, and financial businesses.