Dr. Thomas P. O’Neal
Session: Florida Space Institute, University of Central Florida Physics Laboratory and Engineering’s Maker Space
Session: Executive Roundtable on Data Driven Growth
Dr. O’Neal, known as the “entrepreneur in the business of helping entrepreneurs,” has served entrepreneurs and startups in the Central Florida ecosystem for three decades. His pioneering work in business incubation and entrepreneurial ecosystems has helped build Central Florida’s innovation-based economy, which in turn has become an internationally recognized model for economic development used across the globe today.
During the past 30 years, Dr. O’Neal has developed, founded, implemented and managed a comprehensive suite of innovation and entrepreneur-based programs that support the entire entrepreneurial spectrum, from the initial idea phase through the second stage. He has served as the Associate Vice President of Innovation and Commercialization at UCF; Vice President of the UCF Research Foundation; Founding and Executive Director of the UCF Business Incubation Program (UCFBIP); Executive Director of the Florida Economic Gardening Institute (GrowFL); and the Executive Director of the National Science Foundation’s (NSF’s) Innovation Corps (I-Corps) program at UCF, Florida’s first I-Corps site.
To further support knowledge based economies, Dr. O’Neal serves on multiple national and local boards that advocate for research, commercialization, and entrepreneurism. He is the Founder and President of the Florida Business Incubation Association (FBIA). Other boards include the National Entrepreneur Center (NEC), The Florida High Tech Corridor Council (the Corridor), FireSpring Fund, and the Florida Research Consortium, among many others. He has won multiple awards for service and excellence, including being named one of Florida Trend Magazine’s Top 500 most influential people in Florida (2018 and 2019); the Economic Development Award – Leadership and Service Award from the Florida Economic Development Council (2015); and one of the Entrepreneurs of the Year – Business Development from i4 Business Magazine (2014), among others.
Critically, Dr. O’Neal is known and has been honored as a top advocate for minority, women, and veteran inclusion within innovation and entrepreneurship, and has created and managed multiple award-winning programs that support diversity, inclusion, and economic parity. These programs include Inclusive Entrepreneurship – Hispanic Entrepreneurs (UCF I-Corps IE-HE), a bilingual I-Corps cohort pilot program in collaboration with Prospera, an economic development non-profit in Tampa, Orlando and Miami, to train Hispanic entrepreneurs, and Veterans Florida, a hands-on, intensive entrepreneurship program specific to U.S. military veterans. Recently, Dr. O’Neal has been awarded several prestigious honors for his work in diversity and inclusivity. In 2018 alone, Dr. O’Neal won the Editor’s Choice Award for Economic Diversity and Inclusivity in the Place + Innovation Category from the University Economic Development Association (UEDA) Journal of Economic Development in Higher Education Awards of Excellence, and the Inaugural Outstanding Diversity Helping Hand award from the Orlando Business Journal.
Dr. O’Neal’s international recognition as an expert in research, engineering, technology transfer, business incubation, and economic development has led to presentations and instructional engagements on five continents. He has presented or taught at 20 international conferences, 48 national conferences, and approximately 250 conferences throughout the State of Florida. His expertise has resulted in requests for consultations from government, academic and private industry leadership across international and national levels. He has been engaged by 25 international organizations and 17 national organizations, and helped them create entrepreneurial ecosystems to advance their community’s economic prosperity.
Dr. O’Neal’s work has 40 refereed conference proceedings, with his major publications including:
- O’Neal, T. “The Role of Technology Incubators in Engineering Education,” American Society of Engineering Education, 2005
- O’Neal, T. “Evolving a Successful University-Based Incubator: Lessons Learned From the UCF Technology Incubator,” Engineering Management Journal, 2005
- O’Neal, T., and Schoen, H. “The co-evolution of the University of Central Florida’s Technology Incubator and the entrepreneurial infrastructure in Central Florida,” International Journal of Entrepreneurship and Innovation Management, Accepted chapter, April 2009
- O’Neal, T., Ford, C., & Sullivan, D. “Promoting Regional Entrepreneurship through University, Government, and Industry Alliances: Initiatives from Florida’s High Tech Corridor,” 2010
- Garibay, I., Hollander, C., O’Neal, T. “An Agent-Based Study on the Regional Impact of Business Incubation in Innovation Systems,” Warsaw School of Economics, Warsaw, Poland, September 2013
- Lasrado, V., Sivo, S., Ford, C., O’Neal, T., Garibay, I. “Do graduated incubated firms benefit from their relationship with university incubators?” Journal of Technology Transfer, DOI 10.1007/s10961-015-9412-0, 2015