firms have long followed science, designing and building structures
that allow research to move from untested concept to proven
reality. As 21st-Century R&D explodes in new directions,
industry forces are taking a more active role in the still-unfolding
market and technology adventure.
The promise of life science and
nanotechnology R&D to improve the quality of life has
generated a new rush for bricks-and-mortar testing and manufacturing
facilities. Federal agencies have more expansive funding missions,
while corporate developers speed new products to market. Universities
want glitzy facilities to vie for research dollars and "name"
scientists, while municipalities see high- tech "parks"
as a more acceptable economic development lure than casinos.
Participants are linking up fast to share research, project
development and perhaps, most importantly, funding.
"Customers want to convince
Wall Street and investors that theyre serious about
high technology," says Alain Kaloyeros, vice president
of the new College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering at
the State University of New York-Albany. There, the state,
along with federal and private interests, is pumping in billions
of dollars to build a 750,000-sq-ft R&D showplace (ENR
2/3/03 p. 33). "We wanted to make a signature statement."
SPACES Clean rooms and other R&D spaces must
accommodate both individual and group activities. (Photo
left courtesy of HDR; illustration above by Guy Lawrence
The new parameters of 21st- Century
R&D are also changing the way engineers and constructors
do their jobs. "Researchers are 24/7 people who dont
want to commute a lot and want to be near a university environment,"
says Atlanta-based architect Laura Heery.
Scientific collaboration is the
watchword, as clean rooms and other spaces must accommodate
both proprietary and more interdisciplinary research. More
complex research processes, such as in submolecular nanotechnology,
demand more from structures as well, says Mark Jamison, advanced
technology manager at HDR Inc., Omaha. The vagaries of testing
and commercialization often leave E&C firms with few specs
to design and build on, but the process is also forcing project
participants into new levels of collaboration. But there is
some worry that the R&D phenomenon could suffer the same
fate as the dot-com boom without careful market analysis.