“The Research Convergence Accelerator is a concierge service for industry,” said Jay Golden, associate vice provost for research at Duke University. “It’s not a building, but people—a consortium of Duke University, North Carolina A&T State University, North Carolina State University, RTI International, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, and Wake Forest University.”
Golden spoke about the new Research Convergence Accelerator at a two-day conference devoted to developing partnerships among industry, academia, and government in the service of promoting advanced manufacturing. The conference was organized by the Accelerator in consultation with the National Academy of Engineering (NAE).
Golden said the Research Convergence Accelerator has been in development for about a year and half. “We reached out to other universities and started collaborating,” he said. “We asked ‘How can we make universities a useful tool for companies? How can we be a catalyst for economic development and growth in North Carolina and the United States?’”
The result was the Research Convergence Accelerator, which offers an easy access point for industry and government to world-class researchers and laboratories, highly motivated students, and productive public-private partnerships. Its members include universities ranked in the top 10 of all universities nationally, the top 5 of all public universities, and the top 10 of all historically black colleges and universities. The universities together offer 7 million square feet of lab space, which is larger than the Pentagon.
The consortium also offers a global reach—RTI International works in 75 countries, including Brazil, China, and countries in Africa. Wayne Holden, president and CEO of RTI, said focusing on global markets will be necessary to have an impact on advanced manufacturing and on the Grand Challenges for Engineering in the 21st Century. There are 14 of these Grand Challenges, compiled by the National Academy of Engineering in 2008; they include secure cyberspace, advance health informatics, and engineer the tools of scientific discovery.
“You have to think globally from the beginning if you want to have a global impact,” Holden said. “Engineering and social sciences have to work together.”
The areas the Research Convergence Accelerator is particularly well positioned to address are
infrastructure and urbanization
medicine and diagnostics
computation and analytics
manufacturing and technology
industrialization of oceans
“Come to us with problem sets, with ideas,” Golden said to the audience of about 150 representatives from industry, academia, and government. “We’re asking for continuous feedback. We’re asking for partnership. How can we support you? Reach out to us.”