New developments in College Park’s Discovery District bring workspaces, internships

Capital One's Tech Incubator is one of the businesses now open beneath The Hotel at the University of Maryland. (Theresa Diffendal/For The Diamondback).

With College Park aiming to become a top-20 college town by 2020, it’s welcomed several new developments to its Discovery District, a 150-acre area surrounding The Hotel at the University of Maryland. Here are a couple of the latest projects to open their doors there this month.

Capital One Tech Incubator

Complete with a video game room and a digital wall displaying animations of data projects, the new Capital One Tech Incubator is open near the University of Maryland.

Several students have applied to work there already, and the company will eventually offer up to 30 internships per semester in computer science and engineering fields such as machine learning and data science.

These internships offer students opportunities to work with company technologists on projects about subjects such as cybersecurity.

Located behind The Hotel in the Diamondback Garage, the technology hub will complement the Brendan Iribe Center for Computer Science and Innovation, soon to open just across the street, allowing students the possibility of attending school while completing a part-time internship.

Anjali Mittu, a computer science graduate student, works at Capital One but not in the Tech Incubator.

“It’s going to be a place for students to get practice using technology that are used at Capital One … and for people at Capital One to mentor students,” she said.

There are plans to open the center to all students — not just interns — at least once a week so they can interact and network with Capital One technology associates.

As a bank, Capital One has “tons of data, tons of resources,” said Ming Lin, the chair of this university’s computer science department. “Perhaps the graduate students, perhaps the faculty who are working on research can benefit from having additional inspiration … from real-world data.”

The hub is part of the university’s $2 billion Greater College Park initiative to revitalize the Route 1 area.

“This will be just the beginning,” said Ken Ulman, the university’s chief strategy officer for economic development. “This is a trend that you will see many more companies doing similar ventures.”

The incubator will neighbor other technology companies, such as WeWork, BlueVoyant and Immuta, which were all slated to open in November to December and have since opened, according to Ulman.

Adobe Software is also expected to open a software research lab, Ulman said. These projects around The Hotel and Diamondback Garage are part of the university’s larger Discovery District project.

“Capital One being the first to open is really pivotal,” Ulman said. “Frankly, to have a Fortune 500 company invest with us, that sends a message to the private sector that College Park is a place to bring jobs and to invest in.”

Sameer Popat, who works in the university’s innovation and economic development department, agreed.

“It is a beacon to other Fortune 500 companies that the University of Maryland is a great partner for anyone,” he said.

This is not the first time Capital One — which lent its name to the football stadium — has collaborated with the university. The provost’s office announced in December 2017 the university’s partnership with Capital One to develop a “talented pipeline of students to join the workforce.”

Along with a proposed tech center, Capital One invested $3 million in the computer science department, $2.1 million of which will go toward endowing a faculty chair. Through Maryland’s E-Nnovation Initiative Fund, which matches funds from private entities for the purpose of endowed chairs in higher education schools in Maryland, the state’s commerce department provided $2.1 million in matching funds to endow one additional professor.

The rest of the money will be used to support research in data analytics, machine learning and cybersecurity. In addition, Capital One will partner with this university to develop academic courses as part of the First-Year Innovation & Research Experience program.

Part of the relationship between the university and Capital One can be traced to Capital One’s senior vice president Oron Gill Haus, a university alumnus.

“The Tech Incubator will not only help drive research and innovation for Capital One but also for the Greater Washington Region,” Haus wrote in a blog post about the opening.

“He’s certainly very interested in giving back and having better connections with the university,” Lin said. “He’s very interested in having close connections with the business school, with the computer science department, particularly for technology-related projects.”

WeWork

WeWork, a shared workspace facility that provides office space to startups, has opened its College Park location.

The building, located adjacent to The Hotel and the Capital One innovation lab, is the first WeWork facility to open in Maryland and the first on a college campus.

“They’re already getting a lot of attention for the space,” said Ryan Chelton, the city’s economic development coordinator. “It’s looking very positive right now.”

The facility, which opened Dec. 3, is available to startups for a monthly fee and offers spaces that include plush sofas, lounge chairs, telephone booths, conference rooms and offices. Other amenities include a stocked kitchen offering kombucha, flavored water and coffee.

“It’s a great place for our UMD alumni to get to know each other and work in a space where they can meet other UMD entrepreneurs,” Popat said. “Those are all positive for the institution.”

Chelton added that the facility’s proximity to campus could attract student interns and many entry-level workers.

Whitney Jarrett, a 2018 University of Maryland graduate who recently completed a fellowship at WeWork’s Chinatown location, called the space “cool” but “impractical” for students.

“Unless a company came to the WeWork and decided to hire interns, I don’t think it’s really accessible to students,” Jarrett said. “That’s primarily because the cost is really high for a WeWork.”

Companies pay at least $190 a month for a shared workspace and at least $450 for a private office, located on the College Park building’s top floor, the WeWork website reads.

Prices also vary based on team and office size, and each subscription includes conference room bookings, and access to activities such as yoga classes.

WeWork, founded in 2010 in New York City, boasts 506 offices in 96 cities internationally, according to the company website. There are 11 offices in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area.

And development in the College Park’s Discovery District extends beyond the Capital One Tech Incubator and WeWork facility. The Hall CP, a 15,000 square foot commercial kitchen and programming space diagonal to the WeWork, is expected to be “under construction in the coming months,” Popat said.

In the future, Popat said the university hopes to use the WeWork and other spaces for future events and programming like Tedx events.

“We’re going to try and bring as many people to visit the space and learn about it,” Popat said.

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