Guest Columnist

Column: ARCHIE aims to help reinvent RTP

Guest ColumnistJuly 8, 2013 

Laura Baverman, guest columnist

Bob Geolas has traveled coast to coast in recent months prepping for what could be the final visioning session before dreams of a new and improved Research Triangle Park start to become real.

He explored the Cambridge Innovation Center and MIT Media Lab in Boston and met with innovators in that city.

He toured Stanford University and Stanford Research Park, visited the corporate technology and research campuses in Palo Alto, Calif., and picked the brains of Disney’s Imagineers in Los Angeles.

As Research Triangle Park CEO and leader of its much-anticipated reinvention, Geolas is determined to cast a vision that is bigger than any one of the acclaimed research institutions he visited, one that is as lofty and bold as the plan RTP co-founder Archie Davis initiated 54 years ago.

“We believe that the thing that helped distinguish North Carolina then was to be willing to take on big things,” Geolas said.

Sure, there will be coffee shops and residences and amenities that add quality of life to RTP.

But the big plans Geolas is talking about include reimagining the link between North Carolina’s businesses, universities and entrepreneurs and the rest of the world, providing a place where next-generation ideas and inventions are explored and discovered.

And he’s calling that plan ARCHIE.

For now, ARCHIE is a two-day summit, which will be held July 18 and 19 at RTP’s Davis Drive headquarters, where innovators, residents and business leaders from around the state will come together to brainstorm, draw and design the new RTP.

But eventually, ARCHIE could become a mini-campus within RTP, with free and affordable office space for innovative, growing companies from around the globe and venture capitalists who will vet those businesses.

There could be labs for university professors and researchers to tackle big global issues with their students and the business community and space for showcasing products or launching new technologies.

Key to the plan will be virtual training, curricula and services so companies and businesses around the state and the world can take part.

Already, RTP has begun to host thought leadership events around science, marketing, entrepreneurship and the arts. It will soon announce a speaker series in collaboration with some of RTP’s flagship tenants.

Food truck rodeos are helping to make RTP more appealing to the public.

The biggest effort will go toward creating a culture that is more open and flexible than in the past, Geolas said, so RTP’s uses can evolve along with the needs of those who occupy its spaces.

“Whatever ARCHIE becomes in final form, the idea is that it will never be a finished place, but constantly changing and evolving to meet the needs of the next group coming along,” Geolas says.

Laura Baverman is a journalist who spent eight years covering business for Cincinnati newspapers before moving to Raleigh in 2012.

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