Embry-Riddle Aerospace Research Park Gets a Boost

Rod Castro

DAYTONA BEACH, FLA. (Embry-Riddle PR) — The development of Embry-Riddle’s 90-acre Aerospace Research and Technology Park in Daytona Beach has gained new impetus with the hiring of Dr. Rod Casto associate vice president for research and innovation.

Casto most recently held that same title at the University of South Florida (USF), Tampa, as well as serving as the executive director of the USF Research Foundation Inc. After joining USF in 2003, he transformed school land into a 115-acre research park that successfully attracted several high-tech growth industries. In addition, Casto helped start the Tampa Bay Technology Incubator, creating more than 100 new high-tech businesses.

USF CONNECT, an industry-academic partnership Casto established to position USF as a regional hub for innovation, was recognized in 2010 by the U.S. Economic Development Agency as one of the top three technology commercialization programs in the nation.

“Rod is the ideal choice to promote our research park, and we look forward to a duplication of the success he achieved at USF,” said Embry-Riddle President Dr. John P. Johnson. “The Embry-Riddle research park will create hundreds of jobs by bringing together aviation and aerospace companies, universities and government agencies to collaborate on solving real-world problems.”

Casto is eager to assume his new duties at Embry-Riddle. “The culture of innovation in its faculty, staff and students is clearly recognized and valued by the private sector, and that’s one of the primary qualities that attracted me to Embry-Riddle,” he said. “The Research and Technology Park provides the opportunity to strengthen and expand partnerships between faculty performing applied research and industry seeking innovative solutions. Embry-Riddle students will gain valuable experience not otherwise possible, through exposure to private industry through the research park.”

Among partnerships in the works, Embry-Riddle and the University of Florida may establish a center of excellence in the park to conduct research on unmanned aircraft systems and robotics, which are robust areas of study at Embry-Riddle.

Attracting those companies will be easier now that Florida lawmakers have approved an $8.97 million grant the university will use to begin clearing land, building roads and putting up signs.

The research park has one tenant so far, Larsen Motorsports, which opened its High-Performance Vehicles Research and Development Center earlier this year. The park, located south of the Embry-Riddle campus on Clyde Morris Boulevard and close to Daytona Beach International Airport, is expected to be fully built out in 10 years.

Casto earned two degrees from the University of Florida at Gainesville, a Ph.D. in physiology and a B.S. with high honors in chemistry/zoology. He was an associate professor of pharmacology at University of California, San Diego; director of cardiovascular pharmacology at British Oxygen Group in Murray Hill, N.J.; and CEO and co-founder of Hyperion Medical Inc. in Orlando, Fla.