Hill, Duke University, and North Carolina State University. RTP was founded in 1959 by business, government, and academic leaders, he said, although the universities were the key drivers of the concept.17 They saw the importance of stemming the brain drain from North Carolina and promoting a shift in the regional economy from agriculture, low-wage manufacturing, and government to a research and technology focus.

Employment growth began at the park in the mid-1960s, a time when less than 12 percent of the employment in the region was in high-tech industries. After climbing slowly to around 10,000 jobs in the 1970s, the employee population grew rapidly during the 1980s and has continued to grow since then. Mr. Weddle projects about 45,000 S&T jobs in the park by 2016, spread among some 160 S&T-based firms.


The park has had a long-term economic impact on the region. Per capita income growth in Raleigh-Cary and Durham were far below the state average and national averages before the park was formed; today the per capita income of the region significantly exceeds the U.S. average and far exceeds the North Carolina average. In the 1960s it was one of the poorest regions in the southeastern United States and today is among the wealthiest regions in the southeast.

Mr. Weddle noted that “scale is important” and that RTP is a large park at 7,000 acres. The park did a survey and found that the average size of a research park among the membership of the Association of University Research Parks in the United States is 358 acres, and the average size of a park in the International Association of Science Parks is 708 acres.

However, the average size of a park in China is 10,357 acres. “I thought we were a big park until I looked at that,” he said. The market share of RTP globally is about 4 percent with the RTP share of the U.S. market at roughly 15 percent; U.S. parks as a group have about 24 percent of the world market share, and International Association of Science Parks (IASP) member parks have about 72 percent of global share. “So we are not the center of the universe.”

The park’s university connections are “rich and robust,” and each of the three university partners is involved in governance, leadership, and helping set strategy. The park employs some 40,000 full-time workers in 24.5 million square feet of developed space. The economic impact is $2.8 billion in capital investment and $2.7 billion in annual payroll. When the park began operation, about 11 percent of the employment in the region was in new-line or high-technology industries, and today this proportion exceeds 50 percent.


Founded in 1959, Research Triangle Park is the nation’s second oldest research park. Stanford Research Park—which was founded in 1951 as Stanford Industrial Park in Palo Alto, California—lays claim to be the world’s first technology-focused office park.

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement