Studies on the Potential for University Research Center Expansion to Montgomery County
The Montgomery County Planning Department and Montgomery County Economic Development Corporation (MCEDC) collaborated to explore the potential for a research university or institute located in the County to spur innovation and strengthen the local economy. The study includes three separate, but complementary, reports:
- A “lessons learned” case study analysis of domestic and global satellite university campuses (completed by Bolan Smart & Associates and Alvarez & Marshall for Montgomery Planning).
- An analysis with recommendations of the potential of an enhanced University System of Maryland presence in the County (Completed by Margraves Strategies, LLC for MCEDC).
- An MCEDC staff report about engagement with research universities outside of Maryland.
Themes and takeaways from the reports are as follows:
- Universities require compelling business reasons to open satellite locations. Absent a distinct need and rationale, there will be significant reluctance to make the critical long-term commitment;
- Montgomery County’s federal labs are assets, but regulations around tech transfer are limiting local spinoff effects. Helping to successfully change these regulations to promote private sector partnerships could be attractive to attracting a major research organization;
- The University of Maryland, College Park is proximate to the County and has made major investments in the state’s flagship campus and its adjacent Discovery District, with room to grow. The County should leverage the new Purple Line connection to connect, but not duplicate, the graduate-level research infrastructure at the main campus;
- One possible tool for mixing graduate-level academic research with private sector and federal research is through the creation of an institute or alliance;
- Replicating or tapping into the MPower platform, a partnership between the University of Maryland, College Park and the University of Maryland, Baltimore, provides an excellent framework, since the MPower institutions share the strengths of the private sector and federal labs in areas such as life sciences and technology, including cyber security, artificial intelligence, machine learning and data analytics;
- Industry partnerships are recognized as a valuable tool for universities across the globe but how they are embraced varies widely. It appears that few universities outside of the major life science clusters are partnering with private industry to advance R&D in life sciences-adjacent fields, and those that have are still in their early stages; and
- Fostering several different industry-university alliances, institutes, etc. is a logical pathway to establishing a greater graduate-level research presence in Montgomery County, but our community and business leaders will need to be committed to a long-term creative outreach, substantial relationship building, and dedicate the resources necessary to develop a solid pipeline of potential partnerships.