CEO Blog Post 01.20.2021 AURP at 35!

AURP at 35!

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 of universities gathered in Arizona to form a non-profit association to advance university outreach, innovation, and corporate partnerships through research parks. Among these founding public universities were Arizona State University, Texas A&M, and Central Florida University, along with Stanford University, RPI, Research Triangle Park and other entities.

University tech transfer offices were then in their infancy since 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.
University research parks had an early mission as university auxiliary enterprises, a narrow focus on financial returns from leasing property. 

But over the years university research parks would transform from real estate endeavors to fundamental tools for university engagement and outreach as university leaders reimagined the role of anchor institutions in their communities. Tech incubators and tech commercialization offices would become tenants. Corporations would recognize the merit of housing research centers adjacent to universities.  Some universities, such as NC State would move academic engineering programs to the research park, helping transform the park into the award-winning NC State Centennial Campus. Federal labs, hospital systems, corporations and cities would create their own innovation districts and research parks in rural, suburban, and urban settings across the country, and 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 university 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 and conclude with our International Conference in Salt Lake City, October 18-21 hosted by University of Utah Research Park. 

We look forward to working on place based and tech-based initiatives with the new Administration and Congress and at state, institutional and local levels, and working with our partners to continue to build communities of innovation. Continue the discussion on our Blogger and join us at

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