In 1951, the engineering dean at Stanford University urged his university to partner with the city of Palo Alto to create the Stanford Research Park to help attract corporations interested in doing joint research with Stanford professors and students.
The Stanford Research Park model would spread across the U.S., in places like North Carolina’s Research Triangle Park, and around the globe adjacent to universities and labs in India, China and the European Union.
In 1986, directors from Stanford Research Park, Research Triangle Park, Arizona State University, Edmonton Research Park, Canada and elsewhere gathered in Arizona to form the Association of University Research Parks (AURP), a nonprofit to help this industry evolve from strictly a real estate initiative to helping communities form innovations around universities, federal labs and corporations.
Working out of an office in Phoenix, AURP recently moved its headquarters to the thriving University of Arizona Tech Park in Tucson, and this fall is opening its AURP ”HQ2” in the University of Maryland Discovery District in College Park.
Maryland today is home to amazing science and technology assets, from world class research universities to leading research parks to the world’s largest bio health institution — the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda.
But we don’t always know our state’s strengths. For example, the relatively small state of Maryland receives more NIH funding, both external and intramural, than any state in the country: more than California, more than Massachusetts. We have great technology intermediaries, including Bio Health Innovation, TEDCO and the Maryland Tech Council.
Indeed, we have trouble marketing our state’s strengths. For example, the distance between Johns Hopkins University and the University of Maryland College Park is about the same distance as Duke University and North Carolina State in the famed Research Triangle Park. But Maryland actually has more research and development spending and more Ph.D.s than North Carolina. We don’t market the Baltimore-Washington corridor, however, as a tech corridor as North Carolina does with its Research Triangle.
Also often overlooked is Maryland’s role as home to many companies designing and building science facilities, research parks and innovation districts across the U.S. and around the world.
Whiting Turner’s CEO Tim Regan helped the firm in the 1980s develop expertise in constructing bio manufacturing facilities, which would be critical when biotech investing and facilities construction boomed at academic health science centers and biotechnology companies.
Maryland also is home to Clark Construction, one of the world’s largest builders of science and higher education facilities. Another Maryland company, Wexford Science + Technology, works exclusively with universities, academic medical centers and major research institutions from St. Louis to Rhode Island and Miami to Baltimore in building innovation districts.
In addition, Columbia’s Corporate Office Properties Trust (COPT) builds and finances research parks and government research facilities. Ayers Saint Gross in Baltimore is nationally known for its work designing and master planning research campuses and research facilities across the country.
When you add in Alexandria Real Estate Equities and Scheer Partners in the Maryland suburbs, plus the many other national architecture/engineering companies and developers with local offices in the Baltimore-Washington corridor, the region is unmatched in the density of firms helping to grow the physical assets needed for a science and technology-based economy.
With these world-class institutions, talent and collaboration, now is the time for Maryland to take the next steps in becoming the nation’s premier science and tech-based innovation and entrepreneurial corridor. We have everything in place to accelerate our success and drive more high-wage job growth and economic development in our region.
Brian Darmody is CEO of the Association of University Research Parks with offices at U of Arizona Tech Park and U of Maryland Discovery District. He is former Associate Vice President for Corporate and Foundation Relations at UMD College Park.