Liberty University considering purchase of Bedford research facility

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FOREST, Va. (WDBJ7) Liberty University is eyeing a big project that could advance its goals of becoming a major research university, while transforming a business park in Bedford County.

School leaders are exploring the possibility of buying The Center for Advanced Engineering and Research (CAER) and moving LU's School of Engineering to property, which is located inside the New London Business and Technology Center along Route 460.

The plan is preliminary. Details regarding the project became public Tuesday, when Liberty University and leaders of the CAER presented their ideas to the Virginia Tobacco Commission. School leaders need the tobacco commission's blessing, because that organization funded the original construction of the CAER.

The Center for Advanced Engineering and Research was built in 2011 as a place where companies could develop and test new products. Several tenants have located there over the years, including a software developer and a company that makes self-cleaning surfaces.

"The larger vision from the very beginning has been to create a research university environment," explained Bob Bailey, executive director of the CAER.

Under current plans the CAER would continue to operate as it has for the last six years, but with LU as an anchor tenant and major partner.

"This is a consolidation of research assets in the region," Bailey said adding that a collaboration between the CAER and LU could result in the New London Business and Technology Center transforming into a major research park, similar to Research Triangle Park near Raleigh and the Corporate Research Park at Virginia Tech.

"With (LU) becoming a major research university, it brings economic drivers to Bedford County, the region, and southside Virginia," said Bailey.

Members of the Virginia Tobacco Commission have given Liberty and the leaders of the Center for Advanced Engineering and Research a green light to move forward with their talks.

Commissioners will hold a special meeting later this month to hear more about the project. If they get approval, Liberty leaders say they would like to start construction as soon as possible.