The Virtual Path to a Research Park
It is undeniable that COVID 19 will forever change the way the world conducts business. Although, I find it hard to believe that gone are the days of water cooler gossip and being called on the carpet. After all, people are inherently social creatures and rely upon human interaction for mental and emotional health. However, I will accept the fact that we are experiencing a new normal and that connecting via Zoom, GoToMeeting, or Blue Jeans maybe here to stay. As I have been teleworking and interacting with others who have been teleworking these past few months, I have participated in more webinars and teleconferences and eaten more frozen pizza than I care to admit. But during that time, my relationship with the use of computer internet technology went from zero to sixty. As the first wave of this pandemic may be the calm before the storm, I am going to resist the temptation to push-back against the future.
Today, I can better appreciate the visionary actions of Killeen’s leadership. Soon after Tarleton State University became Texas A&M University - Central Texas, local leaders decided to pursue the construction of a research park. They recognized that with an upper-level university and community college, talent development, in a knowledge-based economy, could be its competitive advantage. Today, college students make up 9.9%, on average, of the population of U.S. metro areas. Killeen has a student population of 16.1% between Central Texas College and Texas A&M University – Central Texas (20,547 and 3,470). However, local leaders were also acutely aware that building a research park would take planning, money, time, and still more money and time.
Consequently, they dedicated themselves to the creation of a virtual network upon which it could begin forming relationships with researchers, entrepreneurs, and tech companies in advance of the park. The Virtual Research Park network utilizes a digital platform through which ideas, research and emerging technologies can move at the speed of modernization. Defense and technology companies and researchers who join the network gain access to contract announcements, shared research, training on procurement, and grantsmanship. Members can network with other companies along and outside their supply-chain to foster innovation. Access to internships, apprenticeships and research scientists within their industry will be available through an online directory.
The technology to collaborate via the Internet has been around for decades. Although, it took a world crisis to wake us to that fact. Killeen’s leadership chose to network virtually, not to avoid human contact, rather to broaden its influence. The digital platform has already given the network access to companies, researchers, and academic institutions that otherwise would not have been possible. The network now counts several Austin and international companies and research universities among its members. With the arrival of Army Futures Command in Austin, companies will have to accelerate their research and testing capabilities to keep pace with the U.S. Army’s modernization efforts.
Recently, Centex Technologies and Texas A&M University-Central Texas announced a partnership to conduct digital forensics research on the campus. Starting July 1, the company will operate a digital forensics lab in Founders Hall. “This lab will enable us to both enhance and expand the services that we provide to government agencies,” says Abdul Subhani, President & CEO of Centex Technologies. The research that Centex Technologies will be conducting at the lab will improve its ability to research, retrieve and analyze large data sets. This added capability will broaden the breadth and influence of the Virtual Research Park, and move Killeen one step closer to a research park.
The Virtual Research Park web portal is slated for release by July 15, 2020. Watch killeenchamber.com for updates.