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USF and Jabil launching Innovation Institute

The initiative, to which Jabil will contribute $1 million in its first year, began with an idea sketched on a bar napkin.

TAMPA — The USF Jabil Innovation Institute unveiled Thursday started out two years ago as an idea sketched on a napkin at a bar on Redington Beach.

Pushing that napkin between them were two CEOs who also happened to be related by marriage: Mark Mondello of Jabil and Joel Momberg of the University of South Florida Foundation. (They married sisters.)

“We’re sitting around and he talks about, ‘How do we take a really large local company that’s influential in the community and mate it up with the local university?’ " Mondello said.

The answer is the Innovation Institute, which will enlist USF faculty and students in the pursuit of research that aligns with Jabil’s global manufacturing services business.

Jabil will contribute $1 million — $800,000 as a gift and $200,000 in research support — in the first year as university administrators and company executives work out details for the new institute’s work agenda, staffing and resources.

“I think it will sort itself out pretty quick,” said Mondello, who earned a USF bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering in 1987.

“We’re trying to create the conditions in which innovation can happen in partnership with Jabil,” USF president Steven C. Currall said.

RELATED: USF innovation generates more than $400 million in statewide impact, report finds

Initially, Mondello said, areas of research focus could include data science, information technology, 5G wireless infrastructure, cyber security, connected devices and engineering challenges related to digital health care — each of which is part of Jabil’s bulging business portfolio.

“What this (creates) is an amazing platform for the wonderful students at USF to get their feet under them and work on real projects," Mondello said.

Jabil has annual revenues of $25.3 billion and more than 200,000 employees. They work in about 100 facilities in nearly three dozen different countries. With 52 million square feet of manufacturing space, it turns out a wide range of electronics, but also other products, from health care devices to network data equipment to packaging. Its largest customers include Amazon, Apple, Cisco Systems, GoPro, Hewlett-Packard, LM Ericsson Telephone and Nokia Networks.

Jabil will lease space at the Tampa Bay Technology Incubator in USF’s Research Park, where USF students and faculty will collaborate with Jabil teams.

“It allows access for our students to all sorts of great innovation" and provides "amazing educational opportunities,” USF senior vice president for research and innovation Paul Sanberg said. “It allows our faculty to be involved in developing, with them and in partnerships, new products and all sorts of things.”

Contact Richard Danielson at or (813) 226-3403. Follow @Danielson_Times