Researchers: Open innovation at research park will create growth, jobs

At the Association of University Research Parks, the brainstorming gets deep

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - Sometimes a vision is too big for just one company to handle.

To complete those projects, relationships must be fostered 

At the Association of University Research Parks' international conference hosted by the Westin Huntsville, entrepreneurs are talking less about competition and more about collaboration.

We spent much of Wednesday afternoon taking the idea of collaboration for mutual benefit to employees who work in the research park everyday.

"Every company has to [collaborate] around here," said Tony Kenny who recently moved here to join a cyber team at Northrop Gumman, a defense technology contractor.

Kenny said within the company, there is collaboration among departments, and at times, the company collaborates with other companies within this research park.

"You have a lot of projects with team arrangements with multiple companies being part of that team," Kenny said. "You can't really operate a project like that without collaboration from the companies."

The goal of research parks is to foster relationships and trust among companies of all sizes and purposes, according to researchers and consultants we spoke with at the AURP conference. -- Tenants re expected to branch out in the interests of a common goal, and when they reach the goal they are expected to share the credit.

That could be a tough dance to do, if companies were not in a setting where relationships were being formed everyday as a result of the park's layout.

Researchers push the idea that shaping research parks so companies are physically close to one another will lead to more chance meetings, which may make it easier for the companies to collaborate when the time comes.

During interviews and panels, we constantly heard top executives talk about how important it is to establish trust in the tech and aerospace industries.

"You create these places within research park to build that trust," said Mason Alstock, a vice president with The University Financing Foundation. "We must be able to build that understanding of the value that each company brings. That can be leveraged into something -- jobs and economic opportunities."

Cummings Research Park is the second largest research park in the world, with about 11,000 students, 300 employers and about 30,000 employees.

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