Nielsens 2Labs aren’t only filled with beakers, microscopes, and other tools of scientific investigation. At the Collat School of Business and the Bill L. Harbert Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, a lab will also be filled with big ideas from current and future entrepreneurs.

Kate and Claude Nielsen have made a $500,000 commitment to establish the Nielsen Innovation Lab, which will serve as a home for student entrepreneurship clubs, as well as classes focused on innovation and business incubation. It also will provide a collaborative teaching space in which students can gain first-hand business experience working on faculty- and student-led startups.

“Claude and I hope this lab will cultivate the entrepreneurial spirit in the students of UAB, and be an economic driver for our community and our state,” says Kate Nielsen. “UAB has always furthered innovation efforts in this community. Our gifts to UAB signify the fact that we believe UAB is important today and will always be important to our community and state.”

The Nielsens’ steadfast support for UAB has included the establishment of scholarships, funding for research, support for the arts and more. Both Nielsens are members of The Campaign for UAB Executive Committee.

Kate Nielsen served as president of the Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham for 13 years before retiring in 2013. Under her leadership,the Community Foundation’s assets grew in size from $38 million to more than $169 million and each year grants funds of approximately $15 million to area nonprofit agencies. Claude Nielsen is Chairman and CEO of Coca-Cola Bottling Co. United, Inc. He also has contributed his time to several civic and corporate boards.

“People used to say the cities that were thriving usually had a river,” says Kate Nielsen. “What we’re coming to find is that urban universities are the river. A university brings vibrancy to the urban core. We are blessed that UAB is in the heart of our city. It is driving everything in the most positive ways: healthcare, business, education in general. Can you imagine anything more important in a city?

“Claude and I are so excited that we have this to invest in,” she adds. “This is the new river. Students, faculty, administration, people — that’s what brings a city back to life.”