Richardson's Innovation Quarter — aka The IQ — Is Making Big Moves as a Living Lab and Nerve Center » Dallas Innovates

It takes brains to win big with innovation. But the city of Richardson is doing just that—by growing its IQ to all new heights. Last week, stakeholders in the city’s Innovation Quarter gathered to hear about major moves in the district “where big ideas and groundbreaking technology will be taking place.”

“We’ve made great progress, especially since our beginning back in 2017 with the task force recommendation,” said Doug McDonald, planning projects manager, City of Richardson. “In 2018, we did our city-wide vision study and identified 10 strategies for implementation.” Since then, the city has made a lot of progress in implementing them, McDonald says. 

The Richardson Innovation Quarter, aka the ‘Richardson IQ’ or ‘The IQ,’ is a 1,200-acre area in the heart of the city. In January 2020, local partners unveiled the district’s new branding and rezoning for the city’s “living laboratory.”

Officials call it a place where “tech companies large and small have developed both commercial and top-secret telecommunication technologies.”

The IQ — with a tagline of “Live. Work. Invent.” — builds on the city’s reputation as a center for innovation and entrepreneurship. 

Pointing to Richardson’s rich heritage of innovation that dates back to “America’s Space Race,” officials noted The IQ district’s continued redevelopment as “a location that attracts tech-based companies looking for access to highly educated talent with an attractive community design.”

The IQ Richardson, innovation district richardson texas

[Image: City of Richardson]

A “next-generation economic development engine”

Steve Guengerich, associate vice president, UT Dallas, said The IQ is “in many respects, the next-generation economic development engine for Richardson — really North Texas.”

In late 2019, the Richardson City Council approved rezoning for higher density development and a variety of uses to provide a foundation for an innovation-focused, urban mixed-use environment.

[City of Richardson video still]

Plans include making the district walkable and bikable, as well as “visually unique—green, lively, and active.”

“Place matters, in many ways, more than ever,” Guengerich said earlier this year. “The Richardson IQ vision for the coming years is to be at the top of the list of places where people choose to be, he says.

Officials detailed UT Dallas’ participation at The IQ. The proposal currently includes:

  • A Venture Development Center to anchor the university’s presence and provide a space for engagement with UTD faculty, researchers, and local industry leaders
  • The Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship
  • Two UTD capstone experiences: UTDSov (Jindal School of Management) and UTDesign (Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science)
  • CARMA, a new mobility center from the Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science
  • An Applied Technology Studio to support and explore emerging applications of XR, AI, and big data

Richardson kicks off a Smart Cities Toolkit

Bill Sproull, president and CEO of the Richardson Chamber of Commerce, and others joined McDonald and Guengerich in a rundown of other city and district initiatives, which are highlighted in a video.

“We recently completed a number of studies, one around our Arapaho Center Station—kind of a lane-use and market analysis,” McDonald said. 

The city also kicked off its Smart Cities toolkit, which helps “gameplan us for new technology,” and Smart Cities initiatives that can be deployed within the city and The IQ district, he said.

Officials said active and completed projects in or near The IQ include a new 1.3 mile Duck Creek Trail, 5.5 miles of new bike lanes, and safety tech. The city will utilize rapid flashing beacons at the DART station and new passive detection in the form of thermal cameras—a first-time use in Richardson.

[City of Richardson video still]

Also this year, project managers prepared a bond for The IQ and a design for Glenville Drive, and the Arapaho Greenville intersection kicked off, as well as a business association alliance.

The IQ attracts nonprofit makerspace TheLab 

Tommy Falgout, vice president of nonprofit makerspace TheLab, said he sees The IQ as a place to build a community and connect with others. TheLab.ms, dubbed “everyone’s makerspace,” recently moved to Richardson’s Innovation Quarter.

Falgout works with “the people who like to build that engineering, that creator, that maker spirit.”

TheLabs’ volunteer-run space is open to members and offers access to 3D printers, laser cutters, pottery, and other specialized tech equipment. Calling it “a gym for tinkerers and makers,” the organization rolled out a “not-so-grand opening“ in February.

[Image via UT Dallas]

“Part of TheLab is the making, but the other side is community,” Falgout said of the makerspace’s culture of collaboration in Plano Magazine earlier this year.

City of Richardson partners with UT Dallas on “headquarters”

In April, the City of Richardson and University of Texas at Dallas announced a new on-site partnership in what was called a new “headquarters” within The IQ. 

The city will move its Office of Strategic Initiatives into a modernized building at 1302 E. Collins Blvd. UT Dallas will join the city in the space to support the region’s startup and entrepreneur community, the university said.

Construction work on the 27,500-square-foot multi-purpose facility will begin this summer, with an expected opening in February 2022. UT Dallas plans to take about 10,000 square feet. 3,000 square feet will be dedicated to programs and events that boost the area’s tech ecosystem. 

UT Dallas plans to stake its physical presence in The IQ with five new research centers and an extension of the university’s Venture Development Center.

[Image via UT Dallas]

A “major knowledge capital investment”

Richardson Mayor Paul Voelker called the move a “major knowledge capital investment by the City and UT Dallas and “a critical step in realizing the Richardson IQ’s ultimate vision as the premier tech hub in Texas.”

Voelker sees that “tangible commitment” to The IQ as a catalyst that stimulates business alliances and attracts new jobs.

UT Dallas President Richard C. Benson said “the City of Richardson and UT Dallas have long had a deeply intertwined, mutually beneficial relationship focused on tech-oriented research, business innovation and training.”

Benson calls The IQ the city’s “nerve center.” It’s the right environment for teams from across the university’s eight schools to be deeply and directly engaged for years to come, he said in April. “Working hand-in-hand with the City, surrounding business community, and other institutional partners, we look forward to collaboratively solving some of our nation’s greatest business, medical, transportation and sustainability challenges.”

UT Dallas’ Steve Guengerich will lead research centers

Guengerich, who is associate vice president for innovation and commercialization at UT Dallas, says the new research centers will fall under the umbrella of the University’s new Centers for Emergent Novel Technology at the Innovation Quarter, or CENT-IQ.

The CENT-IQ will feature a series of co-working, research, and lab spaces. Each center will focus on solutions related to specific tech specialties, which will could include applied artificial intelligence, machine learning, imaging and surgical innovation, and smart mobility, according to UT Dallas.

UT Dallas, a tier-one research institution, aims to “impact society is by moving innovation from the bench to the marketplace,” said Dr. Joseph Pancrazio, vice president for research and professor of bioengineering at UT Dallas. He says The IQ can be “a nexus for university and industry engagement to facilitate translation and commercialization.”

The new UT Dallas centers were awarded seed fund grants by the Office of Research, according to UT Dallas.

Per the university, the five planned multi-disciplinary research hubs at The IQ are:

CENTER FOR APPLIED AI & MACHINE LEARNING

Principal investigators: Dr. Doug DeGroot, professor of instruction in computer science, and Dr. Gopal Gupta, professor of computer science and the Erik Jonsson Chair.

The Center for Applied AI & Machine Learning (CAIML) is a research and development center that partners with companies to apply cutting-edge artificial intelligence (AI) and machine-learning technologies to their products, services and business processes.

CENTER FOR IMAGING AND SURGICAL INNOVATION

Principal investigator: Dr. Baowei Fei, professor of bioengineering and the Cecil H. and Ida Green Chair in Systems Biology Science at UT Dallas; professor of radiology at UT Southwestern Medical Center.

Center for Imaging and Surgical Innovation (CISI) brings together UT Dallas engineers and computer scientists and UT Southwestern investigators and clinicians to develop emergent technologies to improve patient care and human health. UT Dallas, UT Southwestern and local companies will collaborate on translational research, clinical trials and product commercialization.

MULTI-SCALE INTEGRATED INTERACTIVE INTELLIGENT SENSING CENTER

Principal investigator: Dr. David Lary, professor of physics.

The Multi-scale Integrated Interactive Intelligent Sensing (MINTS) Center will develop and deploy a cost-effective irrigation decision-support tool that uses super-resolution machine learning and remote sensing imagery from satellites, drones and security cameras. The center will collaborate with municipalities, corporate campuses and homeowners to save money by optimizing their irrigation water usage.

CENTER FOR SMART AND CONNECTED MOBILITY

Principal investigator: Dr. Rym Zalila-Wenkstern, associate professor of computer science.

The Center for Smart and Connected Mobility (CSCM) aims to provide advanced solutions for the engineering of smart, multimodal cyber transportation infrastructures to improve safety and enhance mobility for drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians. The center aims to pursue community engagement, strengthen industry collaboration, accelerate the transition of research into the real world, and advance education and outreach efforts.

CENTER FOR APPLIED AI AT THE RICHARDSON INNOVATION QUARTER WITH UT DALLAS EXPERTISE

Principal investigators: Dr. Walter Voit BS’05, MS’06, associate professor of materials science and engineering and of mechanical engineering; Dr. Latifur Khan, professor of computer science; and Dr. Sriraam Natarajan, professor of computer science.

The Center for Applied AI at the Richardson Innovation Quarter with UT Dallas Expertise (CAIQUE) will showcase emergent applied AI research at the University to engage companies, win extramural grants, strengthen international partnerships and provide a global network for affiliated students to excel as UT Dallas alumni.

The multidisciplinary center draws from expertise across the University and will have affiliate faculty members from around the world. An industry advisory board will help shape the center’s direction.

  • ECS researchers will advance fundamental algorithms, data structures and analytical methods. Additional ECS researchers will pioneer material point methodologies (meshless modeling frameworks) for representing complex topological data to help 3D-model the next generation of manufactured parts, including complex medical devices.
  • JSOM researchers will innovate around emergent AI-driven business models and customer engagement strategies, both virtual and physical.
  • BBS researchers will pursue evidence-centered design methodologies as driven by AI for advancing pedagogy, assessment and fairness.
  • ATEC researchers will use game mechanics to drive social engagement, motivation, and thirst for learning and engagement.
  • NSM researchers will innovate around AI-driven materials synthesis.

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