Some angel investors are in it solely for the money; others are motivated to give back to the community. If you’re the type that wants to do good to the society, take a close look at research park startup companies in your region — they just might be the treasures you’ve been looking to add to your portfolio.
According to Wikipedia
A Research park is a research facility which is often linked with a major research university. Throughout North America, there are more than 170 research parks. They exist to create linkages between the university, industry and the community.
Combining the knowledge assets of a community with local business expertise in order to create high-paying jobs is the raison d’etre of research parks. Today, there are major research parks in many countries.
“AURP published a report indicating that about 750,000 jobs are supported by research parks in North America,” says Brian Darmody, president of Association of University Research Parks (AURP).
Not only that, parks around the world often cooperate and collaborate to help companies within the parks launch their international expansion. In essence, research parks play an important role in helping emerging companies grow and go global.
In part 1 of the interview, Darmody talks about tech-led economic development and research parks. Part 2 will center around technology transfer.
Darmody was a staff member in the U.S. House of Representatives; the Maryland General Assembly in Annapolis, Maryland; and the Office of the Attorney-Advisor, U.S. Health Care Financing Administration. He currently leads AURP, sits on several local and national economic- and technology-related boards, as well as serves as the associate vice president for research and economic development, and special assistant vice chancellor for technology development with the University System of Maryland.
Among other achievements and economic contributions, Darmody has developed legislation to create the Maryland Technology Development Corporation (TEDCO); authored reforms to the State’s ethics legislation for entrepreneurial startups; organized University of Maryland’s first technology transfer office; and initiated Research Parks Maryland (RPM), the nation’s first statewide research park organization.
* Edited interview
VH: What sparked your interests in the complex tech-led economic development? How did you get started?
BD: I used to work for a state delegate and for a member of Congress 20 years ago. And as the government affairs representative for the law school I was attending that time, I got involved with bringing elected officials to the campus. One thing I noticed was that the elected officials loved visiting our technology incubator and talking with entrepreneurs.
Around the same time, the Bayh-Dole Act had just passed on the federal level, giving universities the right to own IP from federal contracts and grants. People were interested in seeing how research universities could be the innovation assets to stimulate the economy.
Back then, the interface among universities, public entities, and private companies was a growing arena that not many people were working on. I could see that tech-led economic development was going to be a new mission for research universities.
VH: For someone who’s interested in getting involved with tech-led economic development, what qualities must this individual possess?
BD: Curiosity, persistence, and not taking ‘no’ for an answer.
I just read a Harvard Business Review study on qualities that make good entrepreneurs. The research showed 5 common attributes:
I couldn’t agree more. I think this is true for an entrepreneur as well as for someone working in tech-led econ development arena. You need to think of yourself as an entrepreneurial bureaucrat, as oxymoronic as that might seem.
VH: Elements that are beneficial to a startup would help smoothen its path to success, which could be financially rewarding to the startup’s investors. So for startups, what are the benefits of being in a research park?
BD: The real benefits are
Although startups can find cheaper real estate options elsewhere, the companies would be fairly isolated. At AURP, we issued a paper called the Power of Place [pdf], which discusses some of the better science and connections that can be developed from being in a research park.
VH: How can investors and angel groups collaborate with research parks to commercialize R&D and fund university startups?
BD: Angels look for the best investment deals in their region. These deals can often be found in incubators or university research parks. Most universities have connections to, and programs to work with, angel or other investor groups. Investors can invest in incubator or research park companies through this type of program.
For example, University of Maryland administers a regional angel investor network called CAN (Capital Access Network).
Stay tuned for part 2 of the interview next week as Darmody carries on the conversation on technology transfer models, the role startups play in tech transfer, favorite company success story and more.
* VH: Special thanks to Mark Long for recommending Brian.
* For series, references are published in the last installment of the series.