In the 1950s, North Carolina was in economic decline.
Ranked 47th out of 48 in the nation in per capita income, the state was a Southern economy dependent on tobacco, textiles and furniture manufacturing. University graduates were leaving the state in droves in search of better jobs.
Governor Luther Hodges, working with leaders of government and industry, fashioned a bold solution.
In its first 25 years, RTP's growth and development was characterized almost entirely by large firms such as IBM and Burroughs-Wellcome locating R&D facilities within the Park. From this point on, the word was out—RTP was a great place for emerging research and technology companies.
There was untapped talent available at the local universities, and an intelligent culture and affordable cost of living that scientists and technologists loved.
By the 1990s, the entire Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill region had begun to be referred to as “The Research Triangle.”
Additionally, around this time, the region was impacted by a business shift toward the outsourcing of contract research and clinical trials. RTP's collaborative model once again figured prominently in CRO success: many drew heavily on the statistical and analytical expertise at the Triangle's university partners Duke, NC State and UNC, as well as North Carolina's home-grown firm, SAS.
Following the merger of Glaxo-Wellcome and SmithKlineBeecham into GlaxoSmithKline in 2000, 61% of entrepreneurial spinouts specialized in new drug discovery and medical device development.
The nation's first state-funded non-profit was established here to promote life sciences and microelectronics.
During this same period, the Triangle's collaborative model added two important components: the NC Biotech Center and the Microelectronics Center of North Carolina. These organizations were the nation's first state-funded non-profits that promoted small firm success in life sciences and microelectronics.
The state's hands-on policy of loans, grants, counseling and networking worked: North Carolina today ranks among the top three states in bioscience employment and has become a world leader in vaccine research and manufacturing. It is home to an $86 billion a year agricultural biotech industry that will play a major role in feeding a world population expected to reach nine billion by 2050.