Engel named next executive director of Nebraska Innovation Campus

Nebraska Innovation Campus

Ashley Washburn, May 3, 2024

Engel named next executive director of Nebraska Innovation Campus

Kate Engel, an experienced leader in university-based research campus operations, has been named executive director of the Nebraska Innovation Campus Development Corporation, effective May 1. NICDC is the 501(c)(3) not-for-profit corporation that oversees Nebraska Innovation Campus.

Engel assumes the permanent role after serving one year as interim executive director. She succeeds founding executive director Dan Duncan, who retired in April 2023.

Sherri Jones, interim vice chancellor for research and economic development at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, said Engel brings deep experience in building relationships with NIC’s current partners and leading operations and marketing.

“For more than a decade, Innovation Campus has been a valuable resource for university innovators, startup companies and economic development,” said Jones, a member of NICDC’s board of directors. “Kate has been a key contributor to the campus’s incredible growth during that time. I am confident that she is the best person to lead this vibrant campus and to ensure that NIC is a major driver of economic vitality in our community and state.”

Engel joined NIC in 2011 to assist with establishing operations and marketing before the campus’s 2012 groundbreaking. She later became director of strategic partnerships and communications, facilitating recruitment and retention, marketing and public relations, space buildouts, workforce development, and resources and programs for NIC’s partners.

NIC is home to more than 70 companies that include private businesses and University of Nebraska entities. Private-sector businesses occupy two-thirds of the campus’s 570,000 square feet of constructed space. Constructed facilities include office space; a makerspace; a conference center; The Mill Coffee and Bistro; The Scarlet Hotel, a teaching and research hotel; lab space; pilot plant space and greenhouse space. At full build-out, NIC is expected to be a 2.2 million-square-foot campus with uniquely designed buildings and amenities that encourage innovation.

“We are very excited that Kate has stepped into the role of executive director of the Nebraska Innovation Campus Development Corporation,” said Matt Williams, NICDC board chair. “Kate has been with the campus since its beginning and has great knowledge and experience to lead us forward. Innovation Campus has made great progress, and under Kate’s leadership, it will continue to contribute to the success of our university and our state.”

NICDC is owned by the University of Nebraska Board of Regents and led by a board of directors that includes private-sector members and university representatives.

Engel holds a bachelor’s degree in fine arts from Nebraska Wesleyan University, a Master of Arts in management from Doane University, a Master of Science in leadership from Nebraska and a graduate certificate in public relations and social media from UNL’s College of Journalism and Mass Communications.

Because of its rapid growth and unique approach to building a culture that fosters innovation and collaboration, NIC has received several awards of excellence from the Association of University Research Parks, the global nonprofit organization that represents university research parks, innovation districts, technology hubs and more. Under Engel’s leadership, NIC received the 2023 Outstanding Research Park Award in recognition of the partnerships, collaborations and spaces that have supported industry growth, commercialization and resources for entrepreneurs at the university and within the broader community. NIC also received AURP’s Emerging Research Park Award in 2017.

Engel received the association’s Rising Star Award in 2019 and serves on the AURP board of directors.

Engel said she is excited about NIC’s continued growth and development, including projects such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Center for Resilient and Regenerative Precision Agriculture. When completed, it will be the only federal center in the U.S. focusing on climate-resilient, sustainable and technology-driven precision agriculture. A groundbreaking ceremony for Phase 1 of the $160 million facility is scheduled for May 6.

Nebraska Innovation Campus