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New president and CEO excited about ‘disruptive innovation’ at VT Corporate Research Center

Published: Mar. 31, 2021 at 5:36 AM EDT
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BLACKSBURG, Va. (WDBJ) - The Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center in Blacksburg has a new president and CEO.

For almost a year, Brett Malone has been getting his feet wet while also trying to keep the center afloat during a pandemic. His arrival at the center was actually a homecoming. Malone got his PhD at Virginia Tech and created his very first start-up company out of the research center in the ’90s.

In the last nearly 40 years, the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center has grown from a single building in 1988 to a robust community with more than 200 companies working alongside one another.

“What really makes the CRC great is the community of what we call disrupters, the game changers,” Malone said.

Virginia Tech has been dedicated to creating a pipeline for entrepreneurs to get the resources, partnerships and opportunities they need to succeed.

“We started as a mission to help Virginia Tech commercialize their research,” Malone explained. “So the goal is to move research into the marketplace.”

The even grander vision for the center is to help “create a world where big thinkers turn ideas into impact.”

“Disruptive technology, disruptive innovation,” Malone said. “When we say disruption, we think of a positive disruption in the economy. Kind of like what Uber did to completely disrupt the transportation industry.”

However, not all disruptions are so positive. The coronavirus pandemic, for instance, forced the CRC to get creative to help clients and businesses continue to work.

“For me it was very much a proactive, roll up the sleeves and get to work to figure out what we need to do to stabilize the park. What do we need to do to help people feel safe?” Malone said. “Stepping into this role, it’s a big responsibility so now it becomes what’s the long-term vision and development plan.”

One of those plans is to create more labs and functional space for short and long-term entrepreneurial projects.

“We provide ‘space with purpose’ as we call it,” he said.

Among the disrupters, companies at the CRC are working on automated transportation technology, artificial intelligence software, and even medical drugs.

“There’s small companies that have developed real niche innovation, but they’re impacting big industries,” Malone said.

He added they’re only just getting started. There’s plenty of room for more businesses and entrepreneurs to come be a part of the CRC. He has plans to create an environment with all the amenities you need to live, work and play within the corporate research center.

Malone has also created a podcast called #StartDisrupting, in which he interviews people about their work at the CRC. The podcast can be streamed on Spotify and Apple Podcasts.

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