About a month ago Jeopardy asked: “North Carolina’s Research Triangle consists of 3 university cities: Durham, Chapel Hill and this home of NC State.” Tragically, none of the contestants were able to answer ‘What is Raleigh?’ We’ve taken it upon ourselves to educate the world on why the area is known as the Triangle and the history behind it.
The Triangle is short for Research Triangle and originally got the name from the three big area universities UNC-Chapel Hill, NC State and Duke. These three universities have played a major role in our region’s massive growth over the past decades. While the area had been referred to as the Triangle before, it became official with the creation of Research Triangle Park in the 1950s. The founding of RTP marked a landmark shift in the area’s economy. Traditionally, North Carolina’s big industries were agriculture, textiles and furniture. However, after the Second World War times had changed and jobs in these sectors were disappearing or moving elsewhere. Leaders at area universities decided to create the joint venture of RTP to facilitate research, grow the economy and keep graduates from leaving the state for other opportunities.
The park is centrally located between UNC-CH, NC State and Duke. It is home to over 250 businesses and covers 7,000 acres in Durham and Wake counties. Businesses range from Fortune 500 R&D operations to smaller startups. RTP is the largest research park in the country and the originator of over 3,000 patents. Companies at the park create a range of innovative goods and services including pharmaceuticals, agricultural goods, and data and software solutions.
RTP struggled initially but by the 1960s it had transformed into a hub for innovation, entrepreneurship and research. Companies and research institutes at the park were able to recruit from local universities and draw in talent from other parts of the country and internationally. Apple recently announced it is building a large campus in the research park.
Currently, RTP has plans for a $50 million redevelopment project that will create public space at the geographic center, with greenspace, retail and restaurants. In the meantime, the park continues to be a hub for business and technology, attracting workers from around the world.
The park also has a startup incubator, coworking spaces and a campus for growing tech and life sciences. Boxyard RTP, a complex built out of shipping containers, recently opened and is a space for experimental food, drink, retail and events.
The Research Triangle Park has become an engine for innovation and growth while tying local cities together into a renowned center for innovation, even if they don’t get it right on Jeopardy!