Third Annual Forge University Research Park and Innovation District Summit Returns to TAMUCT

By Bernadette A. Serna
January 5, 2023

From left: John Morgan III, Senior Partner of IBM Consulting; Scott Connell, president, and CEO of the Greater Killeen Chamber of Commerce; Stephen Coulston, architect and urban designer from Perkins&Will

From left: John Morgan III, Senior Partner of IBM Consulting; Scott Connell, president, and CEO of the Greater Killeen Chamber of Commerce; Stephen Coulston, architect and urban designer from Perkins&Will.

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In partnership with U.S. Army Operational Test Command (USAOTC) and the Greater Killeen Chamber of Commerce, Texas A&M University – Central Texas is hosting the third annual Forge University Research Park and Innovation District Summit Wednesday, Jan. 11 on campus.

Supported by the Texas A&M University System and the U.S. Department of Defense, the development of a research park at A&M–Central Texas aims to leverage partnerships with Fort Hood, USAOTC, defense, and technology industries, as well as facilitate a need for collaboration and the expansion of research opportunities.

A&M–Central Texas President Dr. Marc A. Nigliazzo emphasized the university’s role and possibilities as a nontraditional, upper-level institution in such an endeavor.

“The overall concept of having people be able to go to school, live on campus, go to work on campus in an integrated sort of fashion, we don’t see many examples of that around the country. The concept we have been working on is an institution where (the university and research park) are integrated,” Nigliazzo said.

“For example, right now we have two cyber security companies on campus. They are doing their everyday work and research that supports some of the things that we are doing by giving our students the opportunity to seek out internships while they are still going to school.”

According to Perkins&Will, an architecture firm from Austin collaborating on the Forge at A&M–Central Texas, this comM Unity will have potential for economic growth and diversity, establishing a blended knowledge comM Unity consisting of academics, industry, and government.

“To forge,” is to form or bring into being especially by an expenditure of effort. Fittingly, the suggested name for the new research park is Forge at A&M–Central Texas.

Vice President for Research, Economic Development, and Innovation Dr. Russell Porter said partnerships among higher education institutions, agencies, and businesses help achieve higher levels of research support. The National Science Foundation (NSF), Department of Homeland Security (DHS), National Institutes of Health (NIH), Army Research Labs (ARL), and Air Force Research Labs (AFRL) are among agencies that contribute to research support.

“All of those funding sources help our Texas A&M University-Central Texas benchmark faculty members, staff, and students in their respective research endeavors in the colleges of arts and sciences, business administration, and education and human development,” Porter said.

“With funding from the federal, state, and local agencies, as well as our business partners, we have grown over 350% in research funding for the last five years with world-class research in defense, solar, cybersecurity, data analytics, healthcare, and education/archives. We look forward to more collaborations based on this third summit." The Office of Local Defense ComM Unity Cooperation of the Department of Defense awarded A&M–Central Texas a $1.2 million grant in 2021, as a preliminary step to establishing a university research park in collaboration with the Fort Hood Regional Economic Development Corporation.

Nigliazzo noted the study is a critical piece, in terms of what comes out of the study and how the study is used once it’s complete.

“We are very fortunate that we received this grant because it has given us an opportunity to really study whether this makes any sense. It’s not something we as a university can do by ourselves. It’s got to be done in consolidation with the comM Unity, and Fort Hood and OTC,” he said.

Nigliazzo added that while the university has been collaborating with OTC for some time, the prospect of a research park would accelerate and expand research, which would result in career opportunities in the area.

Central Texas is a prime location for a research park, as it anchors the “Texas Triangle,” which includes major innovation hubs like Austin, San Antonio, Houston and Dallas/ Fort Worth.

“We seem to be at a point in time and a point in the development of our region where the university can play a substantial role in developing new opportunities for companies as well as students who are looking for employment, whether its engineering, a scientific approach, or cyber security, whatever the approach might be. It's not an opportunity that comes along very often,” Nigliazzo said.

Additionally, the university campus is accessible to the RELLIS Campus and the Bush Combat Development Complex, the Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station (TEES), Texas Engineering Extension Service (TEEX), and other TAMUS resources located in Bryan – College Station.

With service members exiting service and the university graduating more students each year, the opportunity to tap into the pool of uniquely and highly skilled individuals in the area also makes the location ideal.

The summit will feature keynote speaker Senior Partner of IBM Consulting John Morgan III, along with presentations from Scott Connell, president, and CEO of the Greater Killeen Chamber of Commerce, who emphasized the importance of events like the summit to “bring together business, academic, and government leaders to learn about and discuss the opportunities for technology business development in the Killeen area.”

Principal Stephen Coulston, architect and urban designer from Perkins&Will will also be a speaker.

Attendees can also look forward to two panel discussions — Commercializing Research, and Partnerships & Talent Cultivation — featuring experts in research, engineering, industry, and more.

Driven by programs A&M–Central Texas currently offers like cybersecurity, mechanical engineering technology, biology, and education, to name a few, Forge at A&M–Central Texas will weld together innovators, educators, and professionals to build a thriving innovative comM Unity.

“I hope that many of those who will be most excited about it will be our students because it will expand opportunities for jobs. I feel like one of our major goals as an institution is to try to address those needs,” Nigliazzo said.

“It’s an exciting opportunity and it’s not something the university expected to be able to do. I hope it will continue and over time we will begin to see the promise that it holds.”

More information about attending the Forge University Research Park and Innovation District Summit can be found on the Killeen Chamber of Commerce website at

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