News + Insights
The 21st Century is only two decades old, but already one big truth has emerged for businesses: without access to the best ideas, research and talent, companies will struggle to achieve long-term growth and success.
That’s one of the reasons that CEOs and decision-makers in fields as diverse as AI, life sciences, engineering and finance are establishing locations close to university campuses. Inspired by Stanford’s tight relationship with Silicon Valley and MIT’s close ties with companies in the Kendall Square area of Cambridge, business leaders are recognizing the value of being part of a vibrant university ecosystem.
Universities play a vital role when it comes to innovation,” says John, Norjen Managing Director at Brandywine Realty Trust. “They’ve become an important hub, bringing together researchers, students, and private-sector companies to help solve some of today’s biggest challenges.
To help build on that synergy, Brandywine Realty Trust recently announced plans for Discovery Point, a mixed-use development that will sit directly adjacent to the University of Maryland’s campus in College Park. The new project perfectly illustrates how close proximity to a campus can give your company what it wants and needs: a competitive advantage.
Once upon a time, corporate R&D divisions were the hotbed of innovation in America, but that’s no longer the case. In recent decades, the research function has largely shifted to universities. According to the National Science Foundation, research and development spending by academic institutions was nearly $90 billion in 2021, and in any given year university-based researchers earn more than 7,500 patent grants.
Companies that are physically close to – and that develop close relationships with – the researchers making those important breakthroughs have a decided edge in the marketplace. The University of Maryland illustrates the kind of cutting-edge work being done on campuses. Long regarded as one of America’s leading research universities, the school attracts more than $1 billion annually in research funding, including significant support for its work on quantum computing, where it’s an international leader. More than 200 scientists and engineers at UMD are harnessing the properties of quantum physics to create new types of computers and materials that will have a significant impact on life in the 21st Century.
In a recent survey by Deloitte, 71 percent of CEOs said they expect the talent shortages that have plagued business in recent years to continue in general — and 94 percent said they expect to see talent shortages for certain roles.
One effective strategy to combat the talent challenge? Creating a robust, early-career pipeline and attracting graduates before they go anywhere else. It’s another area where companies with a presence on or near campuses have a leg up: Through internships, mentoring programs and other ties with universities, campus-adjacent companies can establish early relationships with students, which often lead to fulltime employment. (According to one survey, more than half of all interns eventually accept an offer from the organization where they interned.)
UMD, with a total enrollment of more than 40,000, is a good example of how robust a university talent pool can be. The school produces thousands of science and tech graduates every year, with 74 percent of UMD graduates remaining in the D.C. metro area post-graduation. Princeton Review places UMD among its top 10 schools for entrepreneurship, and Maryland was ranked the number one state in the country for science and technology workforce.
Research shows that workplace location and environment matter when it comes to employee wellness, productivity and job satisfaction. Workers do best when an office is not just an office, but a place surrounded by everything from abundant green space to robust restaurant options.
University campuses, with their existing infrastructures, already have these features built into their DNA, and companies that locate near a campus can easily leverage these benefits for their employees. At Discovery Point, workers are in close proximity to UMD’s acres of hiking and biking trails; the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center; Big 10 athletics; as well as a wide array of College Park eateries and nightlife. In addition, Discovery Point benefits from the robust transportation infrastructure around College Park, including a new 16.2-mile light rail line that will make getting around even easier.
More and more businesses these days are establishing goals around diversity, equity and inclusion, understanding the enormous benefits that come from having a diverse workforce. It’s another area where close proximity to a university campus can offer significant advantages, since internship programs have proven to be a key element in effective DEI strategies. At UMD, more than 50 percent of the student body is non-white. Building close relationships with students offers unique opportunities for them—and for the companies that hire them.
A 5-acre, $300 million development, Brandywine’s Discovery Point links the University of Maryland's 1,340-acre campus and the nearby Discovery District research park. Designed by architect Ayers Saint Gross, the project is poised to be home to both startups and Fortune 500 companies. It’s part of a $2 billion investment being made in College Park’s Baltimore Avenue corridor.
Location has always been vital for business, but what’s at stake when companies are making location decisions has never been higher. In choosing to go back to school, businesses are making smart bets on the future.