UND Center For Innovation Continues To Establish UAS Ecosystem, Add Tenants

Tero Heinonen, owner of Sharper Shape, at the UND Center for Innovation. With the addition of Sharper Shape business in December, the number of UAS-related firms at the Center for Innovation is now 10. Photo by Jesse Trelstad/ Grand Forks Herald.
Tero Heinonen, owner of Sharper Shape, at the UND Center for Innovation. Photo by Jesse Trelstad/ Grand Forks Herald.

For now, Suite 188 sits empty in the UND Center for Innovation, but Tero Heinonen has big plans for the small space.

Heinonen is the CEO of Sharper Shape, a company seeking to inspect infrastructure with unmanned aircraft systems, also known as drones. The company is the latest to join the center as a UAS tenant, bringing the total number firms to nearly two dozen.

sharper shape logoThe Center for Innovation, which provides support and resources for startup businesses or companies looking to move to the region, is an asset that has drawn entrepreneurs such as Heinonen to Grand Forks.

“This cluster (of businesses) was the reason why we chose this particular location in the United States,” he said, adding he hopes to build a national operation from the Grand Forks office.

After moving the company from Finland to America last year, Heinonen said he is optimistic about the industry growth in the area and the country as a whole. He already has plans to begin recruiting staff from the area.

North Dakota—particularly Grand Forks—is regarded as an epicenter of unmanned aircraft activity by those within the industry. A tenant space at the Center for Innovation is a way for both startup and established companies to become a part of that activity in an environment with support from staff and fellow tenants and flexible leases that allow tenants to pay as they go.

“They’re part of an entrepreneur community, and they’re part of an ecosystem with a lot of folks trying to do the same thing,” said Bruce Gjovig, CEO of the Center for Innovation. “They encourage each other, and they share contacts.”

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