Tenants in South Boston’s Imperial Lofts have an unlikely neighbor in the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center’s Research & Development Center for Advanced Manufacturing & Energy Efficiency (R&D Center).

In the spring 2019, the R&D Center moved from the SVHEC’s Innovation Center to a commercial space within Imperial Lofts to free up space for an expansion of SVHEC’s Career Tech Academy and Workforce Training Programs. Having successfully navigated the relocation of $5.5 million in advanced manufacturing hardware and software assets, R&D Center operations are in full swing on a number of projects.

Established in 2010, the R&D Center exists to energize the growth of new and existing industries and entrepreneurial start-ups by providing comprehensive, highly responsive product design and development services. Through its decade of operations, the R&D Center has worked with a variety of clients including TMI Autotech, Virginia Tech College of Architecture & Design, Keller America and Steinway & Sons.

By serving as a single source location for a range of services including design for manufacturing, prototyping and short production runs, the R&D Center provides regional industries, small businesses and entrepreneurs with everything they need to take an idea from concept to production.

Just one example of this is the R&D Center’s work with Stewart Topp, owner of Topp Line Incorporated and inventor of the Blind Stapler Tool. Topp reached out to the R&D Center in 2017 with a sketch for a unique tool that he believed could revolutionize the cabinet making industry. R&D staff created a dynamic 3-D model based on Topp’s initial sketch, and went on to use their advanced capabilities in Computer Aided Design/Computer Aided Machining (CAD/CAM) to produce a fully functioning prototype.

Using the technical information derived from the prototype, Topp applied for a patent from the U.S. Patent Office, and has continued to engage the R&D Center’s services to produce limited production runs of the Blind Stapler Tool.

“Without the R&D Center we couldn’t have built this tool,” Topp stated.

As the R&D Center enters its 11th year of operations, SVHEC leaders are reviewing the R&D Center’s successes and defining what it will look like in its second decade of operations. Part of that review process has led to the development of a new name and brand.

“The R&D Center has enjoyed a lot of success but we wanted a name and tagline that more accurately reflects the services we provide to the region,” said SVHEC Executive Director Dr. Betty Adams.

The new name will be unveiled to the public during a virtual ribbon cutting in the coming weeks.

For more information, visit www.svhec.org/business-resources/rdcenter, call 434-572-5557, or email info@svhec.org.