Exploring Durham

Research Triangle Park
Jan. 11, 2014 @ 10:24 AM

Throughout January, Exploring Durham is featuring articles about some of Durham’s most intriguing Science and Technology features.

Durham used to be called The City of Medicine for its contributions to the medical community, but it is just as much a city of science and technology.  Many contributions to everyday life were forged as a result of the discoveries and inventions that occurred here.

Much of the groundbreaking research and technological discovery that happens here occurs in the Research Triangle Park (RTP).  Established in 1959 to prevent brain drain as graduates from Duke, NC State and UNC Chapel Hill were leaving North Carolina after finishing school, RTP was named for the three universities and later joined by Durham’s NCCU, home to the BRITE Center for Excellence, which has also played a role in RTP’s growth.

Today, the park is ground zero for some of the most successful science and technology innovations of the 20th century.  More than 170 companies with about 40,000 employees exist in RTP.  It is a global epicenter of technological innovation, and the largest and oldest operating science park in North America.

Research Triangle Park takes credit for some of the most interesting inventions and developments.  AstroTurf was invented in 1965 by scientists at Chemstrand, a subsidiary of Monsanto in RTP. The Universal Product Code, or Bar Codes, was developed in 1973 by IBM at RTP. Drugs such as AZT and Zantac were invented at labs in RTP.

Not happy to rest on its past laurels, the Research Triangle Park Foundation is looking to secure the future of the park.  The foundation recently released its Master Plan for the next fifty years of the park.  The plans call for adding mixed use areas where employees can live, work and play, among other expansions. 

While most companies in the park do not have tours, RTP can be seen by car in order to catch a glimpse of Fortune 100 businesses and institutions that advance innovation and discovery.

Did you know?  At 7,000 acres, RTP is not a city or municipality. It is a special tax district of which 75 percent falls in Durham County.  It is surrounded on three sides by the city of Durham, with the remaining 25 percent spilling into Wake County toward Apex and Morrisville.

The Durham Convention & Visitors Bureau (DCVB) is Durham’s official marketing agency. For more information about things to see and do in Durham, visit www.Durham-NC.com and www.DurhamEventCalendar.com, or stop by the Visitors Information Center at 101. E. Morgan St. in Downtown Durham and pick up the Official Durham Visitor & Relocation Guide.