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UNF's Innovation Program Works To Bring High-Tech Jobs To Jacksonville

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When you think of tech startups, you probably think of Silicon Valley - or cities like New York, Boston, or Austin, Texas - but there’s a new push to bring high tech businesses here to Jacksonville.

The University of North Florida recently created a new Innovation Program. Its goal?

"To bring high-tech jobs to Jacksonville," says director Jerry Merckel.

Merckel is a former IBM employee, and was an electrical engineering professor before being tapped for this position. He also does some consulting for startup events in town.  And he has four engineering degrees, three UNF patents and one pending - all under the Innovation umbrella.

UNF also works with the University of Florida and its vaunted Innovation Hub, a vibrant new tech center on the Gainesville campus.

The First Coast has a ways to go to compete with the likes of Austin and San Jose, though. According to the Brookings Institution, Jacksonville is ranked 83rd out of America's top 10 cities in the number of patents obtained.

Still, says Merckel, "we're moving in the right direction."

Melissa Ross joined WJCT in 2009 with 20 years of experience in broadcasting, including stints in Cincinnati, Chicago, Orlando and Jacksonville. During her career as a television and radio news anchor and reporter, Melissa has won four regional Emmys for news and feature reporting.