Happy New Year, Lake Nona! 2020 came and went in a flash and, at times, in slow motion. In a year that was more challenging than anyone expected, we found strength in our community and continued to celebrate new milestones together. And we look forward to keeping the momentum going through 2021.
In 2020, we set the stage for bright minds to come together in our entrepreneurial ecosystem with our expansive 5G network powered by Verizon. We announced the Verizon 5G Innovation Hub, a development and collaboration space for 5G-enabled solutions backed by industry expertise and guidance from the Verizon team. The lab shares the ground floor of the new 16,000-square-foot Pixon MS2 space with the leAD Lake Nona Sports & Health Tech Accelerator, a new program launched in 2020 for startups to test and refine their ideas in our living lab community and eventually bring them to market.
In Lake Nona, we’re creating the ideal place for entrepreneurial companies, big and small, to call home. “A place where they can engage with and learn from each other and Lake Nona residents – our citizen scientists,” said Juan Santos, senior vice president of Innovation at Tavistock.
In his role, Santos has been participating in a monthly meetup called “First Thursdays,” where a growing list of innovators gather to share ideas and learn from each other’s successful and not-so-successful experiences. Members include entrepreneurs from UCF, the leAD accelerator program, WHIT, and more. This year, the group is looking to cultivate connections between more bright minds in Lake Nona by opening their meetings to the community, hosted in the new Pixon MS2 space.
Six new companies will join the first cohort of startups in the leAD program this year. And they’ll have a new playground to test their ideas with the opening of the Lake Nona Performance Club. The new state-of-the-art fitness center is set to open this summer with a fresh take on fitness that focuses on whole-person health. As a club member, you may even have the opportunity to help leAD startups test their products.
In 2020, we also unveiled plans for the Lake Nona Vertiport, the country’s first regional hub for high-speed, electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircrafts. Aerospace is one of the areas Santos is most excited to see advance in Lake Nona.
“Autonomous vehicles aren’t just on the ground in Lake Nona – they’re already in the air,” he said, referring to security drone testing that’s currently in a pilot phase in the community.
Next, Santos says, are plans to expand our drone testing for medical use cases, including a drone that can fly a defibrillator and one that can transport organs from one hospital to another because “we happen to have every kind of hospital right here in Lake Nona, a major airport next to us, and the desire to be helpful to innovative companies.”
In March, Lake Nona will welcome its first adult hospital – the UCF Lake Nona Medical Center. The facility will function beyond 24-hour emergency services to provide unique educational opportunities for students at the UCF College of Medicine next door.
Down the road from the new hospital in Lake Nona Town Center, the modern and iconic Lake Nona Wave Hotel will open this fall. The new hotel will offer a luxury experience surrounded by a variety of botanical trees and plants, both new and repurposed from our ongoing tree relocation program. Landscaping around the hotel will also include new art installations, adding more unique pieces to Lake Nona’s colorful collection of public art.
Keep an eye out for other new art installations, including a mural that will cover the exterior façade of Pixon along Lake Nona Boulevard, designed by the same artist behind last year’s Prismatic Mural on the new chiller plant in Lake Nona Town Center.
As new art and technology projects continue to evolve, we’re excited to keep exploring and leveraging the new innovations we welcomed in 2020 to see just how bright we can make 2021 and beyond in Lake Nona.