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Kevin Byrne Receives Vision Award from the Association of University Research Parks; Joins Three US Senators, Three Others as Award’s Only Recipients

By November 20, 2019No Comments

ATLANTA, Nov. 20, 2019 — Kevin Byrne, president and chief executive officer of The University Financing Foundation (TUFF) has received the 2019 Vision Award from the Association of University Research Parks (AURP).

The award recognizes individuals who have made sustained and exceptional contributions to the national or multinational community of innovation as embodied in research parks, science parks and/or innovation districts affiliated with institutions of higher education.

“Kevin is a national leader in establishing and operating innovation communities within universities,” said Brian Darmody, AURP’s chief executive officer. “He has been a leading advocate for the value of research parks and innovation communities at the state, federal and international level. Many communities across the globe are richer today because of Kevin’s insight.”

One of Byrne’s major contributions is a study commissioned to quantify the value of research communities anchored by universities while he was AURP president in 2012 and 2014. The report determined that university research parks experienced 27 percent job growth from 2007-2013. During the same period, the world economy suffered a 4.5 percent decline in job growth while recovering from the 2008 financial crisis. Because higher education communities need to constantly innovate, the report suggested that research parks anchored by universities help mitigate recessions.  

A new report released in early November at the AURP annual international conference reflected similar data for the period between 2013-2019, again reflecting the ongoing power of research parks. Both the 2013 and 2019 reports are available at

Byrne understands the value of this data and sought to share it with others to aid in the vision of expanding university innovation communities. “Innovation communities anchored by universities are the keys to improving standards of living at any level, and understanding the impact of research parks is essential to being able to craft a vision with a community,” he says. “These reports provide data that gives lawmakers, university presidents and communities confidence that lives can be improved through the work at university-anchored innovation communities.”

Byrne and Darmody recently testified before the Maryland Senate using this data to support programs which would lift the innovation community in Maryland. Byrne was a featured panelist this summer in Lund, Sweden, regarding the importance of using data in innovation ecosystems.

During AURP’s 33-year history, only six other people have received the Vision award. Past winners include three United States senators – New Mexico Senator Jeff Bingaman, Delaware Senator Christopher Coons and Kansas Senator Jerry Moran – all which have fought tirelessly for higher education and innovation funding in Washington. Other recipients include former AURP CEO Eileen Walker, University of Delaware Research Park Founder Mike Bowman and former Research Triangle Park and Clemson University Research Park CEO Bob Geolas.

Tech Square, the highly-acclaimed innovation community of Georgia Tech in Atlanta, is a development of TUFF. In addition, TUFF is currently working on the Rosalind Franklin Innovation and Research Park in North Chicago, Illinois, the onMain innovation community project in Dayton, Ohio, and is a finalist for the Aggie Square development at the University of California at Davis near Sacramento. 


About AURP

In 1986, a handful of farsighted research, technology and science park directors, recognizing that the concept of research-institute related parks was taking hold in board rooms around the world, organized the first international conference in the United States to discuss the future of research, science and tech parks. From that gathering in Tempe, Arizona, the Association of University Related Research Parks (AURRP), was formed in response to a growing interest in research and development activities based in such unique planned properties. The name was changed to the Association of University Research Parks (AURP) in 2001.

A non-profit international organization, AURP represents the leadership of these technology developments, which are designed to promote research institute-industry relations and innovation districts, to foster innovation, and to facilitate the transfer of technology from such institutions to the private sector. 

AURP serves more than 700 research, science and tech parks and innovation districts in varying stages of development worldwide.  A variety of university, governmental, not-for-profit and private organizations interested in the development and operation of research-related technology projects and programs comprise the major portion of AURP’s membership. Corporate memberships are available to suppliers of goods and services, including planners, architects, developers and construction firms specializing in this highly-technical endeavor.

About TUFF

In 1982, TUFF was created to solve a simple problem, how to deliver a world-class research facility to an institution with no capital support from the institution and no ability for the institution to enter into a long-term arrangement for a facility.  What was born was the initial private ownership and financing for a university research facility which led to TUFF focusing on not only how to finance and develop similar facilities but also how to own and operate the facility to ensure that the programming is conducive to community building.  

TUFF is a nationally chartered non-profit 501(c)(3) organization with a simple mission – provide facilities and equipment to institutions of education and research at below the cost of market.  Using creative solutions, TUFF is able to bring the best of the private sector alongside the best of the public sector and the result is a facility which becomes an ever-changing arena of interaction and innovation.  TUFF has executed 45 transactions totaling over $1.4 billion since inception in 1982 and continues to expand its footprint globally where institutional leadership is committed to improving the standards of living in their communities.