After his long career at the University of Maryland College Park, Brian Darmody, didn’t have to go far for his next opportunity. He simply crossed Route 1, landing at UMD’s Discovery District, when he joined the Association of University Research Parks as CEO, and now serves as chief strategy officer.

Brian Darmody

Darmody, who holds a Juris Doctor degree, spent most of his career at the UMD College Park and the University System of Maryland in a variety of economic development and research administration roles. They included forming public-private partnerships; creating the university’s tech transfer office, incubator and research park; developing concept and legislation for Maryland Technology Development Corp. and working on international partnerships.

What is the mission of your organization?

We’re a nonprofit, member-based organization that represents research parks and innovation districts that are sponsored by the universities, government labs, hospitals, private sector firms and regions in 42 states across the country.

Our membership varies, but right now we’re a little north of 100 and have stayed steady since the COVID-19 pandemic. We’re growing, looking to expand our presence and hopefully will gain representation in areas where we have large universities but not associated research parks such as Big Sky country, among other regions.

How does having two headquarters locations work for your organization?

AURP’s main office is at the University of Arizona Research Park, which is in Tuscon. However, I’m a born Marylander, we were members long before I retired from UMD and I’m not moving; so I operate from the WeWork building in the UMD Discovery District. So when AURP recruited me, voilà ― we had a Washington, D.C.-area office.

How is your organization growing?

More and more universities, hospitals and government labs are trying to engage with local communities, and we can show them how that’s done. For example, UCLA Research Park just joined our organization and recently bought a closed shopping center near the campus for $700 million dollars. So they’re making an obsolete space pertinent again.

There is a similar situation at the Harvard Enterprise Research Campus. Such moves require the right infrastructure, which is available at those two locations. So the innovation districts are a bright spot in today’s commercial real estate universe, which is facing some headwinds.

What does the research park scene in Maryland look like?

AURP has many members in Maryland, including the UMD Discovery District, the UMB BioPark, bwtech@umbc, PIC-MC at Montgomery College and the St. Mary’s County AeroPark Innovation District. We also have many members in the D.C. area, including the Children’s National Innovation District and The George Washington University; and more in Virginia, including Virginia Tech, George Mason, VCU and the University of Virginia.

Is the announcement of the new Greenebaum/St. John Properties project at Montpelier Research Park in Northern Howard County a sign of things to come?

Yes. That project is adjacent to the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab, which will boost that effort. There are only 16 university-affiliated research centers in the country and APL is among the largest. They do a great deal of work for NASA and the U.S. Navy, and have workers inside those installations. However, the Montpelier/St. John project is an attempt to create an environment for contractors to leverage those relationships, and for APL to accommodate research and development workers that they can’t fit inside their fence.

Also, the UMD operates a UARC called the Applied Research Laboratory for Intelligence & Security. It’s sponsored by the secretary of defense, is much newer and not as large at this above new project will be, but it’s interesting that two of the DOD’s UARCs are in Maryland.

In addition, Washington’s Howard University was recently granted the newest UARC, which is called the Research Institute for Tactical Autonomy. That makes Howard the only historically Black college or university to have one.

What is the demand for wet lab space in Maryland, the region and the country vs. supply?

Two years ago there wasn’t enough. But today in some areas, like San Diego, Austin and others, there is wet lab space that is going to take some time to be absorbed by the private sector.

But in our academic sector, there is more demand and government money is often available to make that investment; again, in the private sector, there are greater headwinds. However, National Institutes of Health research grants are going out and that should boost the market in the private sector. After all, you can’t do bioresearch via Zoom.

How much more expensive is wet lab space than empty space?

That varies greatly because it has to do with safety level, but a very rough number would be two-to-three times as expensive. Also, bear in mind that there are other options now, including mobile space and simply having the scientists work from an office to reduce the square footage needed for wet lab space.

Read the remainder of this interview at www.bizmonthly.com to learn more about Darmody’s views concerning Maryland’s national business profile, tech transfer, and collaboration.


Is sufficient capital and venture funding available today?

It’s never enough, of course. But first, know that our members are the people who run the park and rely on real estate investment trusts to build their brick-and-mortar operations.

It’s the tenants who need that venture cap money to make those investments worthwhile, but the federal and state government-run organizations, like the Department of Defense, the National Institutes of Health and the Small Business Innovation Research program also make funding available.

Local options include the State Small Business Credit Initiative and the Maryland Technology Development Corp. For instance, TEDCO receives up to $50 million annually for its business support programs; many states have similar small business offerings.

How does Maryland’s national business profile affect your organization’s efforts to promote the industry?

TEDCO and the Maryland Department of Commerce are among our sponsors, so we work very closely with them, as well as St. John Properties, Ayers Saint Gross, the Whiting-Turner Contracting Co. and Wexford Science & Technology. I don’t think people realize that Maryland is the headquarters for so many companies that build research parks in our state and elsewhere across the country.

What’s your take on today’s tech transfer market?

It’s going great, with one major caveat: the Biden Administration is attempting to issue guidance that would allow someone to object to a patent that was created via federal research dollars because the end products were deemed unreasonable in price. This has to do with keeping the price of medicine down, but that can also prevent a company from recouping the research and development costs of creating a drug. It also undermines the patent system.

Does the R&D industry still have an issue with stovepipes (i.e., a lack of collaboration)?

There are still two cultures: What industry does and what universities do. However, I think that’s improved. Universities have come up with express licensing, for instance, which expedites licensing and removes barriers to reaching the market. And they realize that they need the private sector and cannot bid around and develop the technology on their own.

What’s the biggest challenge in your sector of the industry and your job?

Making sure I have enough time to take advantage of all of the opportunities that are available, in particular the hoped-for opening of the U.S. Economic Development Administration’s Baltimore Tech Hub, which is being led by the Greater Baltimore Committee. It would serve to develop innovative, predictive health care technologies by applying artificial intelligence to biotechnologies.

The GBC is a finalist in the competition and an announcement is expected this summer, so our fingers are crossed.

What do you consider the highlights about your industry and your job?

Members in our parks are working on technologies that improve health, eliminate pesticides, reduce energy consumption, explore outer space and exploring the limits of any other technology you can think of. Helping to create the environment where that can happen is quite fulfilling.

What does your organization do to attract and nurture young talent?

Help educate the market. For instance, most people don’t realize that the tenants in our parks don’t need employees to be Ph.Ds.; in fact, up to 40% of the employees in our parks don’t even need a four-year degree, particularly in the biotech field. In addition, there are many organizations in Maryland and nationwide that offer that type of training.

What are your hopes for the market one year from now?

To continue to create more communities of innovation. On that note, there is a national conference coming to Baltimore in April 16-17 called HBCU Engage that will include six of the Maryland-D.C.-area’s HBCUs; it’s intended to expand the research capacity of HBCUs across the country. If they can meet that goal, it would be a boon to the industry.