A pioneer and role model for Southern business women, Victoria Franchetti Haynes is a down-to-earth, modest forerunner in science, technology, and research. Throughout her impressive 22-year career, Haynes has worked in the manufacturing and service industries at companies like BFGoodrich, where she served as vice president of the Advanced Technology Group and chief technical officer from 1992 to 1999.
Last July, Haynes was named president of the Research Triangle Institute, a forward-thinking, non-profit organization that conducts research and development and provides technical services in advanced technologies, environmental sciences, health and pharmaceuticals, public policy, and survey and statistics. Founded in 1959 as part of the Research Triangle Park, RTI serves its community by attracting new industries to the Raleigh-Durham region, and its country by conducting research and development for governmental groups like the Department of Defense and the Environmental Protection Agency.
In the following interview, Haynes discusses gender issues, the spin-off phenomenon, and the need for more robust venture capital initiatives in the South.
RTI has given me a great welcome and I feel like I’m already a member of the community even though I’ve only been here a couple of months. My being a woman hasn’t been an issue at all. We do have other women in management positions elsewhere in the science sector, and diversity is very well tolerated here because we do have everyone from social scientists to psychologists and statisticians to educators. We have electronics people, we have engineers, we have chemists, we have biologists. It’s a very diverse makeup of people in the first place and no one research area is the same as the other. In addition, we do international development, which means we are a culturally sensitive organization and we have to stay that way in order to be successful.
I’ve been in male dominated organizations all my life. In fact, when I was in college, there weren’t too many women taking chemistry. Women have made a lot of strides since then. Interestingly enough, we had a real pioneering woman, Gertrude Cox, who actually founded the statistics department at North Carolina State University and that was back in 1941. She was also instrumental in establishing the statistics department at the University of North Carolina, and at RTI. So you could say North Carolina’s first leader in statistics was a woman. RTI has a proud history of diversity to protect.
One hallmark for the South is its investment in science and technology. After many, many years, we’re beginning to see pay off now that larger companies have started relocating down here. We are also seeing a lot of spin-offs of larger companies. For example, there have been 329 spin-offs alone in the triangle region and 40 percent of those have been formed in the last five years. This is a burgeoning area.
The South has somewhat of an edge because the business development here has emphasized a diversity of industries including electronics, pharmaceuticals, and environmental technologies. At the same time, we still have some of the more traditional industries. If you look at the way new technologies are developing, you will notice that they are appearing at the edges of old technologies through new industrial combinations. You combine information systems and pharmaceuticals, and you get something different than if you just focused on pharmaceuticals. The South does have an interesting character in that regard.
One Word: Pharmaceuticals
The health care industry and pharmaceuticals are our areas of largest growth. We attribute that to the national agenda and the fact that science and technology has moved rapidly enough to allow for widespread development of new health and pharmaceutical regimens. And there are always more questions to be raised.
Clients usually come to us because we have a capability that is well known. We have scientific stature. We do some marketing because we offer a broad range of capabilities in the pharmaceutical area. For example, we do everything from direct discovery to clinical trials, including toxicology. We can offer a lot to the pharmaceutical industry and to the health industry, in our outcomes work, our social policy research, and our survey work.
Increasing the availability of early-stage venture capital should be one local goal for the future. There are a lot of opportunities to spin off technologies and, at the very early stages, venture capital is often what makes the difference between something taking off or just languishing in a university or an institute. At the same time, we need to sustain the investment that we have made in the universities and the technical colleges for two reasons. One is, we need to enhance that research base and we need to provide more labor for a very tight labor market. We need to make sure, in the South, that we continue to invest in and expand our university system because that really is the heart, the foundation of every thing that we do in technology-driven industries.
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