BRIC brings research, job opportunities to town

By Maleesa Johnson
Staff Writer

The Baylor Research and Innovation Collaborative draws researchers and employees to a site that has been largely vacant for 27 years.

“The research that has been going on here and will go on here in the future has the potential to affect humankind,” Lori Fogleman, assistant vice president for media communications, said. “I hope that is not much of an exaggeration and I really don’t think it is. The future is just limitless here at the BRIC.”

Dr. Truell Hyde, vice provost for research, had the idea of a research park upon accepting the position of provost in 2001. In 2009, when the Clifton Robinson family and H. Bland Cromwell donated what was once a General Tire facility to Baylor, that idea became a reality.

“In this building is research of all sorts,” Hyde said. “It’s a brand new paradigm.”

The BRIC is considered by Hyde to be a point of rebirth. The General Tire that was made in World War II was rendered unnecessary after the war was over. The factory shut down and jobs were lost.

The 330,000 square feet of space of advanced technology costs an estimated $45 million. Hyde said they have been raising funds and will continue to do so.

In May, Cooper Foundation chairman Bill Clifton announced a $250,000 award to Baylor for a microgravity research facility within the BRIC.

Partnering with Baylor at the BRIC are stakeholders City of Waco, City of Bellmead, Greater Waco Chamber, Cooper Foundation, McLennan County, Texas State Technical College and Waco Foundation. Additional support has been given to the BRIC from Bellmead Economic Development Corp., MD Anderson Foundation and Waco-McLennan County Economic Development Corp.

The purpose of the BRIC is not only to provide housing for research facilities but to encourage economic growth by creating new job possibilities. According to the official BRIC website, studies show that for every job in a research park, another 2.57 jobs are created.

The BRIC is still under construction, but is already home to many research centers. These include the Center for Astrophysics, Space Physics and Engineering Research, Quantum Optics Laboratory, Advanced Composite Technologies Research, Electrical Engineering Research, LAUNCH, L-3 Communications and others.

With regard to the facilities taking residence in the BRIC, Hyde said they are always recruiting. Some businesses and research facilities have requested a space within the building. Hyde estimates they have received 100 requests.
One business that has made its home at the BRIC is LAUNCH.

The business is geared to offer startups and establish companies’ access to the knowledge, networks and financial resources necessary to succeed in the business world.

Director Greg Leman said the goal of LAUNCH is to join with innovators and entrepreneurs of vision and help prepare them.

“Taking products to market is kind of like white water kayaking,” Leman said. “You don’t learn that in a book. You have to actually do real work and everything goes crazy — usually all at once. Until you learn how to react and see how it works in the real world, you wouldn’t understand.”

Engineering centers are also present at the BRIC.

This includes the Microwave Applied Metrology lab. This lab focuses on measuring the physical properties of materials by measuring their electrical properties at the microwave frequency.

This science is then applied to real-world problems such as the improvement of concrete and steam.

Dr. Randall Jean, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, said this research is done and then sent to various companies in hope of gaining a contractor. Graduate students do the majority of the work within the lab.

“We want to solve real problems that impact real people,” Jean said. “And we use high-tech stuff to do that.”