Among the organizations taking glass-enclosed office space in the recently opened WeWork at University of Maryland College Park is an organization looking to promote research parks that cluster minds in science and business.
That’s where Brian Darmody is transitioning out of a 37-year role as a UMD administrator focusing on corporate engagement and into a new job as CEO of the Association of University Research Parks.
“I view it as a startup,” Darmody said. “I’m the CEO of a startup, and we’ve got to deliver value. But we have a good history.”
AURP got started in 1986 as the Association of University Related Research Parks in Tuscon, Arizona, where it still has an office. A group of like-minded leaders of university research parks organized an international conference and decided to form a membership group focused on “communities of innovation.”
It has since shortened the name to its current form — and research parks themselves have seen a name change, too, as “innovation districts.”
Darmody, who has long been involved in AURP in board roles, is also seeing a shift in the approach. Dating back to the original research park at Stanford University in the 1950s, many of the parks of a prior generation were created with a spacious, office park feel. But there’s been a shift toward a more tight-knit clustering of resources that’s located near a campus or in a college town.
AURP’s new office — HQ2, if you will — happens to be in one of these innovation districts. In College Park, the Discovery District is a 150-acre area stretching from Baltimore Avenue to metro-accessible River Road. Along with colocating academic researchers, startups and larger companies, there are also plans to add amenities like food, arts and entertainment.
Darmody said he aims for the organization to be a “big tent” of all such hubs, with the tagline “communities of innovation.”
“At the end of the day it’s about building community and taking the good research thats taking place at our universities and localizing it,” he said.
In all, AURP represents 200 areas, and stretches beyond the U.S. with locations in the EU, Australia and China. Darmody sees opportunity to have a bigger international presence. With College Park located near D.C., he said it can provide a “global port of entry” for park representatives who may be visiting as part of a delegation to the U.S., or others in the U.S. seeking a global reach. The office also puts AURP in proximity with the University of Maryland BioPark, the Johns Hopkins Hospital-adjacent Eager Park development and bwtech@UMBC in Baltimore.
Maybe he’s onto something with that hub idea.
“Our administration is pleased that the Association of University Research Parks is opening an office in Maryland,” Gov. Larry Hogan said in a statement. “As home to the most highly educated workforce in the nation, our state is the perfect place for continued science and technology development, and we look forward to working with the Association to create another community of innovation right here in Maryland.”-30-