Corporate Research Center at Oyster Point & Jefferson Lab

For the world-wide community of scientists and researchers exploring the mysteries of subatomic particle physics, particularly those affiliated with the City’s own Jefferson Lab particle accelerator, 2015 was a tremendously important year. In October, the National Science Foundation’s Nuclear Science Advisory Committee (NSAC) approved pursuit of an electron ion collider (EIC) as the nation’s highest priority for new facility construction. The NSAC 2015 Long Range Plan for Nuclear Science includes this rationale:

Gluons, the carriers of the “strong force,” bind the quarks together inside nucleons and nuclei and generate nearly all of the visible mass in the universe. Despite their importance, fundamental questions remain about the role of gluons in nucleons and nuclei. These questions can only be answered with a powerful new electron ion collider (EIC), providing unprecedented precision and versatility. The realization of this instrument is enabled by recent advances in accelerator technology.

Jefferson Lab already “images” subatomic particles with electrons moving at near-light speed, but the announcement by the NSAC was the starting gun for competition with New York’s Brookhaven accelerator to add onto existing facilities and create the new, high-priority EIC that the science community requires. Importantly, as the Long Range Plan states, “Realizing the EIC will keep the U.S. on the cutting edge of nuclear and accelerator science.”

For the City and the region, the economic impacts of bringing the EIC to Newport News would be far reaching and long term. Almost 5,000 people would likely be employed over the 7- to 10-year build period, and generate over $70 million in annual local spending. In the months prior to the NSAC announcement, numerous collaborative activities demonstrated strong ties between Jefferson Lab and the City. In March, Jefferson Lab re-introduced itself and its incredible work to City Council, the School Board, the Planning Commission and the EDA/IDA by hosting a public information session. Aside from advanced nuclear physics research, the Lab highlighted its major role as an educational asset utilized continuously by the School Division to enhance K-though-12 STEM education.

The session also featured presentations by Virginia Tech and the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center, emphasizing the VT KnowledgeWorks program, which successfully stimulates and supports entrepreneurial research and commercialization in Blacksburg. This same expertise has been brought to Newport News to attract and support future tenants in the proposed Tech Center Research Park in Oyster Point. While Virginia Tech will remain fundamental to its success, other higher education institutions will join in as partners with developer W.M. Jordan to grow the Park and create opportunities for “creative collisions” from which new ideas and ventures will arise.

Later in 2015, the City and the Southeastern Universities Research Association (SURA) executed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that set forth commitments and collaborations in support of Jefferson Lab expansion and the Corporate Research Center. Strategically, the MOU sends a strong message of continued, long-term solidarity to the Department of Energy and the science community. It demonstrates that the City and the Lab commit to collaboration for years to come on supporting each other’s broad goals and mutual operational needs where they meet, particularly with respect to the research center’s proposed first building.