Innovation & Entrepreneurship

Innovation & Entrepreneurship

A triangle of talent – discover the number one research park in the US


As the largest research facility in the country at 7,000-acres, two miles wide, and eight miles long, the Research Triangle Park (RTP) is the home to more than 250 businesses and employees, and more than 50,000 people. With nearly one in five people at the RTP holding a graduate degree, the promising population of industry-leading physicians, clinical researchers, and engineers makes this region one of the most innovative in the world, as Lauren Blanchard discovers


When looking at places that bolster new development and innovation, research universities and business hubs are a popular setting for physicians, scientists, engineers, and visionaries to come together and find new devices, therapies, and procedures that can transform patient health. One of the most prominent research and development centres in the United States is the North Carolina Research Triangle. A combination of the three cities of Durham, Raleigh and Chapel Hill, the triangle stands for the grouping of the region’s top research universities: Duke, NC State, and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Giving a boost to North Carolina communities

Established in 1959, the goal of the North Carolina RTP was to stop the migration of recent graduates from the region’s top universities to jobs in the Northeast and elsewhere. These universities came together with a goal of attracting businesses from around the nation to participate in the State’s research facilities. By 1965 IBM joined the Park and expanded it for a huge influx of workers. The expansions of RTP helped to turn around North Carolina’s poor economic capita and to this day the RTP start-ups have boosted North Carolina’s community’s economy.

Now a base to Nobel and Pulitzer Prize Winners as well as recipients of the US Presidential Award and National Foundation Awards, the Research Triangle Park is an island of opportunity for businesses looking to be at the centre of innovative communities. More than 3,000 patents have been awarded to RTP businesses, all across fields of technology, communications, biotech, and pharmaceuticals. Every year industries invest more than $296 million in R&D at the region’s universities.

250+ businesses of all sizes

50k+ intelligent & creative people

3k+ patents awarded to RTP Businesses

Top 10 employers:

IBM Corporation

Cisco Systems, Inc.


Fidelity Investments

RTI International

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Credit Suisse


NetApp, Inc.


United States Environmental Protection Agency

RTP success and innovation

Some of the successes to emerge from the Research Triangle Park include famed inventions like the UPC barcode and medical advances like several life-saving HIV drugs. At Duke University in 1987, Olaf von Ramm, Stephen Smith and their team developed a 3D ultrasound system for cardiac imaging. In 2007, Dr Craig Buchman and Dr Matthew Ewend from the Division of Neurosurgery at UNC were the first surgeons in the United States to place an auditory brainstem implant (ABI) into a patient. In 2016, Leica Microsystems acquired the Duke spin-out company Bioptigen. Bioptigen founded OCT imaging systems: a revolutionary, high quality ophthalmologic imaging system that can help detect and monitor morphological changes of ocular tissue and aid in diagnosing pathological conditions.

Visionary businesses currently working out of the Research Triangle Park include IBM Corporation, Cisco, RTI International and Lenovo. Whether they have a commercial-scale facility located on campus like the biopharmaceutical company Medicago, or are a smaller business stationed at the RTP incubator First Flight Venture Center, this hub of businesses ensures there is a space for all innovators.

The future of RTP

Recent successes to emerge from the RTP includes spinout company Zenomics Inc, which recently raised $5.8M for their ‘smart’ insulin injection devices and Locus Biosciences – a precision medicine company from NC State – moving towards human trials for their CRISPR-Cas platform for Programmed Cell Death. Medical device company Transenterix uses robotics to improve minimally invasive surgery. Their most noted device is the Senhance Surgical Robotic System, a multi-port robotic system that performs precise, complex surgery in a minimally invasive manner.

As for the future of the RTP, global technology services leader Infosys plans to open a Technology and Innovation Hub in North Carolina and hire 2,000 workers by 2021. The Park was recently declared a top 20 Growth Accelerator Fund winner by the US Small Business Administration, which, if anything, promotes a promising future for medical device innovation.

About the author

A graduate from the University of California Los Angles, Lauren is currently based in Strasbourg where she is studying French and working in medical communications.

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