Thirty-five years ago, there was no Internet as we know it. No Facebook. No Twitter. And no Zoom meetings!
But in 1986 a group gathered in Arizona to form a non-profit international association to advance outreach, innovation, and corporate partnerships through research parks and what would later be called innovation districts. Among those gathered in the Arizona sun were Stanford University Research Park, Arizona State University, Edmonton Canada Research Park Authority, RPI from New York, Research Triangle in North Carolina, Texas A&M, and Central Florida University.
University tech transfer offices were then in their infancy. The Bayh-Dole Act allowing universities to own intellectual property from federally sponsored research had passed only a few years earlier. Few university incubators existed. Entrepreneurship as an academic discipline or interest among student or faculty groups was just beginning. Venture and angel capital was emerging as a financing tool. AUTM had not been formed. iNBIA did not exist. Research parks then had a narrow focus on financial returns from leasing property.
But over the years research parks would transform from real estate endeavors to fundamental tools for engagement and outreach as anchor institutions reimagined their roles. Tech incubators and tech commercialization offices would become tenants. Corporations would recognize the merit of housing research centers adjacent to universities and recruit students. NC State would move its engineering college to its research park, helping transform the park into the award-winning NC State Centennial Campus. Federal labs, hospital systems, corporations and cities would follow suite, creating their own innovation districts and research parks in rural, suburban, and urban settings across the country, and eventually around the world.
Our parks now house thousands of companies working on important technologies, from the latest COVID-19 vaccines to space tech to cyber security to quantum computing. Student maker spaces and internships, faculty consulting and tech commercialization are enhanced through physical proximity to the university. Community engagement through childcare centers and technician training are just some of the tools our members are using for inclusive connections. Workforce housing in parks is being developed as research parks become even more environmentally friendly by reducing institutional carbon footprints and commuting times for researchers and other employees.
On our 35th anniversary AURP will be exploring topics from bio health clusters to green technologies to aero-space and space technology. We start with virtual webinars in February, produce our Bio Health Caucus meeting on June 8 for life science members and conclude with our International Conference in Salt Lake City, October 18-21 hosted by University of Utah Research Park.
AURP is thinking out of the box and out of the world as we recruit new members, including corporations supporting communities of innovation, and introducing new programming. Stay tuned.
We look forward to working on place-based and tech-based initiatives with the new Administration and Congress as well as with state, institutional and local partners. We pledge to continue to build communities of innovation in 2021. On February 24 at 1:30 pm ET we will have a look at predictions for the Biden Administration and new Congress to support place-based technology development policies and programs. Join us for this and other programs in our 35th year at www.aurp.net.