Gerry Hayes saw both challenge and opportunity in 2009, when his longtime employer Sony Ericsson began laying off workers and shutting down the RTP building where new mobile devices were researched and developed since the early 1990s. 
Hayes left of his own free will to join a startup making antennae for the military. But many of his former colleagues had trouble finding work in town after their jobs were axed—also shrunken over the years were the operations of telecommunications behemoths like Alcatel Lucent, Nortel Networks and Cisco as well as smartphone manufacturers HTC and Research in Motion.

Hayes worried over what all that engineering talent would do and how it might deplete this region of an industry stronghold. 
But he quickly noticed a real problem he could help solve, while also keeping those talented engineers around. At his new employer, Green Wave Scientific, he spent tens of thousands of dollars and months of time shipping new devices and technologies to be tested in the types of facilities and chambers that Ericsson had on site. There had to be a better way for businesses—startup or multinational corporation—to more speedily innovate.

The seeds for the nonprofit Wireless Research Center of North Carolina were planted. Hayes began to plan a facility where devices made by Fortune 500 companies or startups could be tested and developed with help from experienced wireless engineers. It would offer state of the art equipment found only in a handful of facilities around the world, and a team of experienced mentors to help young innovators form companies around their inventions. It wouldn’t require any intellectual property rights to be sacrificed, making it a truly neutral place for companies to come and innovate. 

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