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Research and Development Partnerships

Welcome to The Rapid Center, a state-of-the-art facility that offers our partners access to highly qualified faculty and staff, equipment and facilities and technical capabilities to address your engineering needs. Our goal is to partner with inventors, entrepreneurs, startup companies and well-established businesses to help move their ideas or products forward toward successful commercialization. Working together, we can promote economic development for the entire region.

Results You Can Use

WCU is focused on using research and knowledge to serve the needs of business partners throughout the Southeast and beyond. Our Rapid Center will help you get results you can use - a prototype, proof of concept, new information, designs, drawings, suggestions for process improvements, innovative problem solving, new business ideas and more.

Business Partners

If you have a specific schedule for a top-priority project, you will want to work directly with our faculty and staff. As partners, we will work with you to meet your goals on deadline and within your budget. You can be sure your intellectual property is protected by contract, and our Analysis and Testing Agreement (ATA), which specifies the project scope, will help us together manage your deliverables, deadlines and more.

Project Sponsors

If your project is less deadline driven and perhaps more exploratory in scope, you may want to work with a team of highly motivated students, helping to mentor their progress on a two-semester Senior Capstone Project. As project sponsor, you can be directly involved in the students' work while you consider their potential as future employees.

Become a Business Partner

Contact Patrick Gardner at 828.227.2560 to discuss your project's scope and deadlines and to determine whether the center's capabilities, faculty and staff, equipment and student resources are a good match for your project.

Next, make an appointment to visit the Rapid Center on WCU's campus to meet the staff and tour our facilities. When it is determined a project is a match for our capabilities, the center develops a specific scope of work for the project set forth in our working agreement – the Analysis and Testing Agreement (ATA). The specifics of cost, timeframes, deliverables and all pertinent details of the project are identified in the “scope of work” segment within the ATA document. Then the work begins.

For further information about contractual details, contact Patrick Gardner, Rapid Center Director, at 828.227.2560 or

There is no charge for preliminary discussions and initial project assessments. Once you decide to work with us as a business partner, there are fees for engineering design, testing, prototyping or fabricating services related to your project. The scope of work for a project segment will specify the total cost of all services, staff and student resources, materials, equipment usage and other details.
A business counselor from North Carolina's Small Business and Technology Development Center (SBTDC) provides Rapid Center clients with product commercialization counseling services at no-cost or very low cost. Examples of no-cost counseling include: business plan writing assistance, marketing strategy review, financial analysis assistance and operations planning. Examples of fee-based counseling services include: one- and two-day tactical and strategic retreats conducted at clients' business locations.

The Analysis and Test Agreement (ATA) includes a statement of work, definition of technical requirements, deliverables, delivery dates, liabilities and responsibilities, costs and budget. It includes a confidentiality agreement to protect your intellectual property at whatever level you require over the course of your work with the Rapid Center.

The ATA outlines our intellectual property as follows:

  1. You retain ownership of any intellectual property you share with the Rapid Center.
  2. You acquire ownership of and responsibility for any intellectual property the Rapid Center agrees to develop for you under contract.
  3. Any intellectual property not directly related to your core business or product but is derived from a process innovation or enhanced method of using the center's labs or equipment is owned by the Rapid Center. You may have first licensing rights if you wish.
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