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The University of Nebraska-Lincoln will use a $750,000 grant from the U.S.Department of Commerce to build biotechnology lab space at Nebraska Innovation Campus for small and start-up companies. Together with unused construction funds to match the federal Economic Development Administration's grant, UNL will create a “biotechnology connector program” to stimulate economic growth in fields from agriculture to pharmaceuticals. Within months, 10,000 square feet of vacant space at the Food Innovation Center will become laboratory space for up to eight small companies a year for the next nine years,said Matt Erskine, deputy assistant secretary of commerce for economic development. “This investment will help the state leverage a strong ag sector with new, innovative businesses and even new industries,” said Erskine, who leads the EDA. “It will also help by filling a gap in Nebraska’s industry and research community,” he said. Businesses seeking laboratory space to develop new products or test existing ones often find difficulty in securing affordable rates.