Celebrate Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day

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Alexander Calder, Chat-Mobile (Cat Mobile), 1966 Painted sheet metal and steel wire 20 x 26 x 26 inches. Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. The Leonard and Ruth Horwich Family Loan (EL1995.10). © 2011 Calder Foundation, New York / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo by Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.

Ever wonder how science affects art — and vice versa? Through June 17, 2012, the Nasher Museum presents  “Alexander Calder and Contemporary Art: Form, Balance, Joy” an exhibition of the works of modern sculptor Alexander Calder (1898-1976) and seven of his protégés that define space and explore form, balance, color and movement.

Photo by Dr. J Caldwell

To celebrate Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day, the museum has teamed up with our local Society of Women Engineers (SWE) chapter to provide fun hands-on engineering-related activities for all ages on Thursday night, February 23, 2012.

The museum’s free admission on Thursday evenings will be in effect and as part of Corporate Sponsor Night,  anyone showing a business card or ID from a RTP company will be admitted into the Calder Special Exhibit for free.

Alexander Calder, Blue Among Yellow and Red, 1963. Painted sheet metal and steel wire 43 x 63 inches diameter. Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. The Leonard and Ruth Horwich Family Loan (EL1995). © 2011 Calder Foundation, New York / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo by Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.

Can’t make it Thursday? No worries — RTP is hosting another evening of science and art on April 26 during the NC Science Festival. Stay tuned to the blog for more details on that fun event.

Other interesting /helpful tidbits:

 

A Home for RTP’s Founding Universities

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Archie K Davis

If you drive down T.W. Alexander in the Park, you’ll likely see signs noting that you’re on the TUCASI campus. While the acronym isn’t immediately discernible, TUCASI stands for The Triangle Universities Center for Advanced Studies, Incorporated and was the first model through which RTP and the Research Triangle Foundation sought to strategically support the founding universities — Duke, UNC-CH and NC State — and to ensure they had a permanent home in the Park.

TUCASI was the brain-child of Archie Davis, one of the Park’s founders. Mr. Davis was the person who went around the state in 1958-59 and convinced citizens and companies from all 100 counties in North Carolina to donate funds toward the creation of an economic development strategy that would ultimately become RTP. Mr. Davis was also committed to the idea that what makes RTP special is our relationship with the founding universities. He wanted to make sure they always had a place in the Park and that the Park/Foundation could continue to support collaboration among the three.

In the early years, TUCASI’s activities were focused around giving the universities the types of foundations and tools that would help them excel. For example, the Triangle Universities Computation Center, the Triangle Universities Library Network, and the Triangle Universities Licensing Consortium were established under the auspices of TUCASI. In addition, TUCASI as an organization worked to recruit institutes and centers that would enhance the state and encourage collaboration among the universities, including the National  Humanities Center and the NC Biotechnology Center.

Currently, the campus is also home to The National Institute for Statistical Sciences (NISS), the Burroughs-Wellcome Fund, MCNC and the Statistical and Applied Mathematical Sciences Institute (SAMSI).

In more recent years, TUCASI has become involved in programs that continue this spirit of collaboration among the founding universities. Examples of these include REACH NC — a Web portal that enables users to find experts and assets within North Carolina higher education and research institutions and TIP - a two-year effort conducted in collaboration with RENCI to determine how Triangle area universities access, manage, and share ever-growing stores of digital data. In October of this year, TUCASI is pleased to help support the hosting of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing’s New Horizons Conference and joining others across the Research Triangle region in telling of the innovation and discovery that is taking place in our own backyards.

These descriptions only scratch the surface of TUCASI, but provide a taste of what makes RTP different from other research parks. For more information on TUCASI, check out a  summary of its earlier years and/or chapters in A Generosity of Spirit — a book detailing the establishment of RTP and the stewards who made it all possible.

What Drives RTP Companies?

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One of the greatest assets of RTP is its companies. With more than 170 of them employing more than 38,000 full-time workers, they range from the 1-2 person start-ups to campuses with thousands. They represent a vast array of cutting edge technology that works to resolve some of the world’s most pressing problems or to create the next best app/device/tool to increase productivity in a range of disciplines. In short, they all do pretty neat stuff.

Recently, as I was trying to get a sense of industry trends and issues most critical to our companies,

I found blogs by the leaders of two of RTP’s
I’ll be on the look out for other examples, but in the meantime, here is a glimpse of what GSK and  Cisco see on the horizon:companies that give a sense of the challenges facing their companies and their ideas to address them.

  • GSK’s Triple Solution: The first is a blog that Deidre Connelly, GSK’s President, Pharmaceuticals NA posted for the British American Business Council. Within the blog, she notes  GSK’s approach to prevention, intervention and innovation to help the people of the world “do more, feel better, and live longer.” She references an article by GSK CEO Andrew Witty in which he discusses how the company — and entire industry — must better “harness intellectual diversity and unleash creativity” to develop drugs more efficiently but also its need to apply that ability to innovate to reconsider its business model.
  • Using the Network to Drive Innovation: In this blog post/video, Cisco CEO, John Chambers suggests that mobility and connectivity will push content and drive innovation. He also notes the importance of bringing together diverse groups to tackle today’s and future problems. Nothing how smart networks have fundamentally changed the way people live — not only how we work and play, but how we address issues like healthcare and how we collaborate to innovate and discover more. He notes how innovation must be enabled by technology and operational excellence if it is to be effective.

What the Future Holds for Gen Z

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When the Institute for Emerging Issues at NC State was established twenty years ago, the idea was to “put ideas into action and to ensure the state’s future success.” In the preceding years, the annual Emerging Issues forum has brought to light issues and changing dynamics that potentially create greater opportunity for North Carolina’s continued competitiveness or pose challenges to that vision. Through the forums, the state’s leadership and citizens have examined issues ranging from tax policy to creativity and from energy and the environment to healthcare.

This year’s forum promises to be equally thought provoking. On Monday and Tuesday of next week, people from around the state will gather at the Raleigh Convention Center to listen to insights into the challenges that face Gen Z — that cadre born between 1990-2000 who have come of age not knowing what life before Google was like and who (as reported in a recent Cisco poll) would rather lose their purse or wallet than their smartphone device. (And many of whom — I would wager– wouldn’t know what I am referring to when I note that Obi Wan looks a lot different with brown hair in the current Star Wars movie….).

The conversation will force baby boomers and Gen Xers to think through ways to better integrate this upcoming generation into our workforce and will look at trends that will have significant impacts on the skills that they need — and may not need — to realize their goals.

Speakers from around the country include Robert Safian, EditorFast Company Magazine, Sally JewellPresident & CEO, REI, Ami Dar, Founder & Executive Director, Idealist.org, Ray Mabus, Secretary of the Navy, U.S. Navy, and Michael Crow, President, Arizona State University (I’m especially interested in President Crow’s comments; I’m a former Sun Devil (employee) and was living in Phoenix when he began transforming ASU into the New American University).

In addition, some of our best local thinkers — including former Governor Hunt, Mike Walden, Madhu Beriwal, Chancellor Woodson, President Ross,  and Ted Zoller — will be featured, as well as a great representation from the state’s high schools, community colleges and university system.

And most fun of all, IEI will award its Prize for Innovation during the conference. This year’s prize challenged both college and high school teams to come up with innovative ideas to increase North Carolina’s high school graduation rate. Videos of the finalist candidates are online. Voting started Monday and will close Monday, Feb 6 at 5 PM.

Registration closes this afternoon. If you weren’t able to sign up to join the discussion and fun, no worries — they’ll be live-streaming many of the talks. (And I’m sure #NCGenZ on Twitter will be busy).

Finally — kudos and thanks to Diane Cherry, Anita Brown Graham and all of the IEI staff for pulling together such a great program.

It Takes Both

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Under Secretary Sanchez

While “research” is our first name, the companies in the Research Triangle Park recognize the important linkage between innovation and R&D and manufacturing and actually making “stuff.” This point was made quite clear during a recent visit to the Park by Undersecretary for International Trade at the U.S. Department of Commerce, Francisco Sanchez.

At a White House Business Council Roundtable co-hosted with the Greater Durham Chamber of Commerce and the Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce, more than 25 representatives from companies and universities in the Research Triangle region—led by NC Department of Commerce Secretary Keith Crisco—came together to provide insights and ideas to the Undersecretary on ways the US Federal government can continue to help North Carolina companies make more and sell those goods to markets overseas.

Exports are a substantial part of the North Carolina economy and the ability to not only think up great products and therapies but produce them and sell them around the world will be key to our future competiveness (a side note and interesting factoid: if “exports”  were considered an industry, it would be our second largest in the State, producing sales of more than $31 billion annually).

One great example of this important relationship was illustrated by the experience of Protochips, an early-stage company that develops analytical tools for more targeted R&D of nano-scale materials, founded by a group of NC State grads. David Nackashi, the  company’s CEO and Co-founder, explained how his company gets excited about the cutting-edge ideas and technologies that Protochips is able to develop within the rich environment of the Research Triangle region. But, he gets even more excited when the company’s low-tech fax machine delivers new orders from customers in Japan and throughout the globe. He touted the great collaboration and programs within our region that allow his company to not only leverage the best of graduates and students of NC State and others around the region, but to work with the state and federal resources to  identify potential markets, make the connections and ultimately make the sale.

His comments echoed those of Beau Mills, the District Director for the Office of Congressman David Price, who noted that our state is a great model of how government, industry and academia work well together and how the partnerships that have grown over the years work to service the needs of not only well-established companies but small start-ups and new ones.

The entire roundtable discussion was a great testament to the talent and innovation in our state and region—and a great example of how the idea that started the Park—getting the public sector, academia and business to work towards an overall strategy—continues to create opportunity for North Carolina and businesses who call this state home.

Importance of Investing

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It was a busy week for the Research Triangle: in the span of five days, three Cabinet officials – Secretary of Education Duncan, Secretary of Homeland Security Napolitano, and US Treasury Secretary Geithner came to see first-hand what happens when you combine more than 50 years of investments in education and knowledge creation with activities to spur and nurture economic growth.

During Secretary Geithner’s visit, the Foundation had the privilege of hosting a small roundtable discussion before he headed to Wilmington to tour the Corning facility. The discussion was a chance to show off the enormous range of activity in the Park and region and for the participants to share their thoughts on the state of the economy and actions that could be taken to raise business confidence with the Secretary. The regular suspects of long-standing information technology and biotech firms were well represented (with IBM, RedHat and Biogen idec), as well as some of the region’s start-ups such as Appia, SciQuest and Advanced Liquid Logic and relative new comer to the region, IEM. Also included in the mix were representatives from the industries that help make the R&D happen: Progress Energy, ShopBot Tools and the Daniele company. Finally, the discussion included representatives from academia (the UNC-System and Duke), as well as the venture community  (InterSouth, Hatteras Venture Partners) and our statewide business organizations (the North Carolina Chamber and the North Carolina Technology Association).

Below are excerpts of a blog posted by Victoria Suarez-Palomo, Deputy Assistant Secretary
for Business Affairs and Public Liaison. For the original/full blog please visit the Department of Treasury’s news section).

This week, I joined Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner on a trip to North Carolina where we saw firsthand how critical innovation is to our economy. He heard from business leaders and university presidents at the Research Triangle Park and visited Corning Incorporated’s optical fiber manufacturing plant in Wilmington.

At the Research Triangle Park, one of the country’s largest R&D centers, Secretary Geithner engaged in a discussion about accelerating economic growth, putting more Americans back to work, and helping U.S. companies compete in the global marketplace.

This trip was a reminder that we are a country that invents, creates, and builds things here – things the world needs.

Deputy Assistant Secretary Suarez-Palomo closed her blog by noting that the visit emphasized something the Research Triangle region has recognized for more than 50+ years: the importance of investing in a strong workforce and favorable business climate to ensure our economy leverages our vast knowledge assets and operates at its full potential to create opportunities for the people and businesses in North Carolina.

Triangle Startup Weekend: What did you do this weekend?

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Last weekend, CED was one of the hosts for Triangle Startup Weekend – an event to build a company in 54 hours.  According to Joan Siefert Rose of CED, there where nearly 200 people for the kickoff, and more than 100 people worked over throughout the weekend in the American Underground to create their companies. Eighteen teams presented the result of their concentrated efforts Sunday afternoon.  Thanks to Joan for sharing news of the winners:

  • First Place: YardSprout, a company matching homeowners with master gardeners to help cultivate part of their lawn to grow food
  • Second Place: DoTheData, a company founded by Jenny Eigenrauch and Wendy Lybrand, counselors in Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools. The technology is designed to help counselors manage student records in a more efficient and actionable way.
  • Third Place: Knackeo, a company dedicated to helping individuals develop the “knack” for certain skills by linking them with the right people and resources. 

Special kudos to the judges – Jason Caplain of Southern Capitol Ventures; Joe Colopy of Bronto; Brian Handly, advisor at RingLeader Digital; Joe Velk of Contender Capital; and Richard White of UserVoice. And special thanks to the other organizers: Triangle Interactive Marketing Association, Triangle Business Law, with help from Group Story and ReverbNation, in partnership with Startup Weekend, a nonprofit based in Seattle. 

Continued investments in University Research Key

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Last week the Research Triangle Foundation participated in the annual Triangle Chambers visit to DC to brief our Congressional delegation on issues that impact the Research Triangle region’s economic competitiveness. In addition to infrastructure issues such as transportation funding, transit and high-speed rail, the group also reminded our representatives of the importance of strengthening one of our region’s strong assets – our university research system.

One of the participants noted that if the Research Triangle Region were a state, we’d rank 3rd in terms of Federal Funding for university research. While that’s a good thing – and our universities have ample evidence of how they’ve positively leveraged those funding sources  – the forecast for continued strong Federal investment in university research and innovation funding is not very promising. In FY2011, Federal agencies proposed a total budget authority of $143.4 billion for federally funded research and development, a 2.3 percent decline in inflation–adjusted dollars.

A recent study by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) sheds light on the implications of the decline. ITIF reports that the United States is falling behind its peers in the amount of government- and business-funded university research. In 2008, the United States ranked 18th out of 30 in terms of growth in government-funded university research as a percentage of GDP. Countries like Sweden (1),  Ireland (4), and Singapore (7) had much stronger spending.

The trend is unfortunate given that, as ITIF suggests, the private sector often under-invests in innovation so that university research plays a key role in filling in the gap. Moreover, in the last three decades, the trend has been for large corporations to heavily downsize or repurpose their central research laboratories. University-based research has become increasingly important in basic and early-stage research, as ITIF notes, to expand “the knowledge pool from which the private sector draws ideas and innovation.”

The full ITIF report, “University Research Funding: The United States is Behind and Falling,” can be accessed here. For information about Research Triangle university research efforts, see:

Creative Risk Takers

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The RTP region has long been touted as a great place for entrepreneurs. Monday’s announcement of the “Startup America Partnership” is just the latest example. Flanked by Geomagic’s Ping Fu and with corporate support from IBM (the largest and one of the longest operating companies in RTP), President Obama launched the Partnership in coordination with the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation and the Case Foundation to:

(1) Increase the number of new, high-growth, innovative firms (and hence more quality jobs);

(2) Reiterate entrepreneurship as a key source of America’s competitive advantage; and

(3) Inspire a larger and “new class of creative risk-takers” to strengthen companies and “unleash the next wave of American innovation.”

A Strong Foundation for “Starting Up”

While the establishment of CED (the Council for Entrepreneurial Development) more than twenty-five years ago to enable and promote high-growth, high-impact companies in  the region  set the stage for catalyzing the entrepreneurial culture in the Triangle and State, Startup America and other recent developments demonstrate that innovation is alive and well in the RTP region.

On the university front, just look to the tremendous progress that has been made over the last several years at UNC-Chapel Hill — an inaugural Kauffman Campus, within the entire UNC System and within higher education throughout the state to infuse entrepreneurship programs throughout all college life and learning. In the area of social enterprise, activities such as Bull City Forward and the North Carolina Fourth Sector Initiative prove that we can be not only economically impactful in our start-up activities,  but also create and nurture positive  social impacts, as well. And finally, on the national level, appearance such as Ping Fu’s at the launch of Startup America and her participation – along with that of UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Holden Thorp – on the National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship, show that many of the thought leaders on how America can achieve sustainable growth and quality jobs through entrepreneurship and small business live and work in our region.

Together these initiatives weave together to create a stronger foundation for our entire region and one in which RTP companies of all sizes can succeed.