Among many positives, the Wireless Research Center of North Carolina (WRCNC) has two key things working in its favor right now: talent and technology.
WRCNC is a non-profit organization based in Wake Forest that supports R&D, testing, and regulatory assistance for current and next-gen wireless systems and technologies. With several telecommunications companies leaving the area such as Nortel and Sony Ericsson, the group was founded in 2010 to retain and attract local engineering talent.
The center is a unique economic development engine for wireless technologies and provides access to antenna, RF engineering, and regulatory consulting services from concept to pre-production in the areas of commercial telecommunications, defense, and wireless medical markets.
It also maintains a Satimo SG 64 OTA chamber for wireless and antenna testing from 400MHz to 18GHz, which is one of only two like it in the world. The Golden LEAF Foundation helped fund this powerful device through a grant.
As an independent engineering and research lab, the WRCNC is able to connect with a broad range of customers and applications without any conflict of interest – currently working with about 25 customers. Unlike universities and other large research organizations, the WRCNC is “IP neutral” and does not maintain any intellectual property developed with its customers and associates.
The key to what they do is to provide a wireless link within the last-mile broadband spectrum by offering access to engineers in specialized facilities and by offering their expertise in the various commercial, government and academic sectors. This model serves as a hub for economic development and as a catalyst for innovation in wireless technologies.
WRCNC has a similar incubator business model to other organizations in the area such as RTI International in RTP and the Defense Security Technology Accelerator (DSTA) operated by the Partnership for Defense Innovation in Fayetteville.
Gerry Hayes is the president and founder of WRCNC who has nearly 20 years of experience in wireless (currently holding about 65 patents) and has worked previously for companies like Sony Erickson and Lockheed Martin. He says it’s an exciting time in wireless and that the WRCNC is in a unique position to leverage high-speed broadband in the wireless space to help promote economic development in the Triangle and throughout North Carolina.
“There is a lot of talent in this area, and the WRCNC provides a central focus for that talent; a place for test facilities and for engineering support across different disciplines to serve as a wireless technology hub for the area,” says Hayes. “We have had so much support from the town of Wake Forest and others, and we are getting closer to moving into phase 2 of our vision as we continue to look for innovation in this area and help get it to market.”
The organization is mainly product-and hardware-oriented through the integration of machine-to-machine wireless capabilities. They also are supportive in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education efforts. Hayes explains that continuing to build the engineering talent pool in the Triangle is essential to success of the WRCNC.
WRCNC is located in the former 3Pheonix facility in Wake Forest and currently has six full-time employees, one part-time employee, and an array of engineering talent in wireless technologies at their fingertips.