The University of Maryland will open an 8,000-square-foot space in Crystal City, Virginia in fall 2020 to foster innovation and collaboration among UMD students and faculty, Crystal City residents and businesses, and alumni in the area.

The flagship university’s main campus is only 11 miles from Amazon’s new HQ2 in Crystal City, and UMD’s “Discovery Center” will bring unique opportunities and expertise to Northern Virginia, including access to world-renowned tech faculty and the nation’s largest number of computer science students, all poised to partner with local firms.

The massive online retailer anticipates occupying 4 million square feet of office space, investing $2.5 billion and hiring 25,000 employees in the community, potentially transforming the D.C. area’s tech landscape.  

“Amazon HQ2 is a regional phenomenon, and we are just a Metro ride away,” said university President Wallace D. Loh. “This new space will help connect our flagship researchers and students with this emerging technology hub, fostering innovation in our growing Cyber Valley.”

The College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences, A. James Clark School of Engineering, College of Information Studies, and Robert H. Smith School of Business plan to host symposia, lectures and learning events in the new center on topics like cybersecurity, machine learning, supply chain management, engineering and human-computer interaction. The lineup will combine the strengths of UMD’s top nationally ranked computer science program with expertise from Maryland’s engineering, information studies and business faculties.

Amazon’s arrival creates a huge center of gravity for technology firms in the region, said Ken Ulman, the university's chief strategy officer for economic development.

The University of Maryland will be an active participant and partner in the ecosystem that is being established, and help connect to the growing innovation ecosystem in our Discovery District in College Park,” he said.  

The Discovery Center will provide spaces for academics, local businesses and community residents to interact and exchange ideas, as well as seminar rooms, a strategic planning and creative problem-solving center, spaces for students to work with industry partners, and career development interview rooms to facilitate internships and employment opportunities. The center will also function as an event space for researchers, industry leaders and alumni to meet, network and discuss industry trends.
 
The Discovery Center builds on the university’s presence across the DMV, such as the satellite campus for the Smith School at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Washington, D.C., and the presence of 16 UMD degree programs at the Universities at Shady Grove in Montgomery County, Md.

Easy access for faculty and students from College Park will be one of the planned facility’s key attributes, Ulman said.

“With Metro’s Yellow Line extension, folks can go from campus to the Discovery Center in 30 minutes without changing trains,” he said. “You’ll walk out of the Crystal City station, turn and literally see the University of Maryland sign in front of you.”