Our Summer 2024 NextGen Cohort is underway!

Our mission is to radically impact lives for the better by equipping current and future entrepreneurs with the resources to transform promising ideas into world-changing physical products. Our innovation activities bring together future, current, and veteran innovators—to work collaboratively in one place.

You can learn more about Hardware Park's team on our leadership team page.

1. Founding

Hardware Park (HP) is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization that was formed in 2017 with an eye toward the future of designing, engineering, and manufacturing physical products.

HP resides at the former home of the Long-Lewis Hardware store and distribution center. The two-block property was renamed Hardware Park after it was purchased by Cornerstone Revitalization Group, LLC. The nonprofit work began in earnest on June 1, 2022 when Dr. Mark Conner was hired as the Executive Director.

2. Expanding Hardware Innovation

We focus on helping innovators create physical products. We welcome entrepreneurs, give them the tools and support they need, and connect them with industry partners. We also provide tailored NextGen programs for local students. These programs not only push new ideas forward but also train the next wave of designers, engineers, and manufacturers.

HP is uniquely equipped to expand physical product innovation—and the associated manufacturing—in the Birmingham metropolitan area and across Alabama. Developing new physical products requires a broad range of technical skills and an understanding of how to design for manufacturing.

We believe that Alabama is a resource-rich state that can become a place where world-changing products are designed and manufactured, and high-performing companies start and grow.

3. Medical Device Center (HPMD)

In response to recent reports from the Brookings Institution, Hoover Institution, and Deloitte to leverage the strengths of Birmingham’s medical community, our primary focus is the Hardware Park Medical Device Center (HPMD) which combines our team’s experience in medical devices and Birmingham's manufacturing history.

HPMD will help bring experienced physicians, clinicians, and researchers into the entrepreneurial ecosystem and collaborate with them to evaluate concepts and turn promising ideas into functional prototypes and FDA-approved devices.

Additional resources for the founders and the product development teams will be achieved by building a network of related industry and ecosystem partners. Among the many things these partners can provide is access to additional mentoring, professional connections, and capital.

4. HPMD’s NextGen Education

HPMD’s Next Generation programming will train high school and college students in the context of HPMD projects and help support the entrepreneurs in our community.

Much of the next-generation training at Hardware Park takes place in context-rich, hands-on environments. High school and college students have opportunities to learn design, engineering, and manufacturing as they work alongside industry professionals to advance ongoing HP projects. Students also benefit from relationships and employment opportunities with our network of partners and have opportunities for peer-to-peer leadership.

In anticipation of establishing HPMD Next Generation programs, we piloted the MedTech Design Experience for high school students in July 2023. The two-week program had two interrelated goals:

1. Teach high school students the methodologies used by Hardware Park’s design team and then allow them to design their own medical devices.

2. Bring together a diverse group of students from the greater Birmingham area. A total of 8 students, representing 7 high schools, participated in the experience. Half of the students were from urban schools and half were from suburban schools. The students were divided into two teams of four, with an even urban-suburban distribution on each team.

The MedTech Design Experience was a success on every level. Within the first week, students were developing healthy working relationships and established group texts to communicate with each other in the evenings and on weekends. Each group produced prototypes for original devices, one of which is a wearable rescue inhaler for asthmatics.

5. Smithfield Neighborhood

Located at 811 5th Avenue North, Hardware Park is situated two city blocks west of I-65, serving as a cornerstone of innovation within Birmingham's historic Smithfield neighborhood and the larger Smithfield community.

Hardware Park is situated in the eastern section of Smithfield, only blocks away from the Switch innovation district. We are committed to being mindful and active contributors to this historically rich neighborhood. The first step is honoring and acknowledging Smithfield’s history.

Smithfield has a deep-rooted history tied to African American entrepreneurship dating back to the 1890s. Many middle-class and influential African Americans, including A. G. Gaston and Wallace Rayfield, lived in Smithfield and started businesses in and around the neighborhood in the 1890s and early 1900s.

The Smithfield community is also home to ‘Dynamite Hill’, an area once marred by racial violence. Dynamite Hill was subjected to a series of bombings aimed at intimidating African Americans and Civil Rights advocates in the mid-20th century.

Dynamite Hill's history speaks volumes about the courage of its residents, who successfully resisted violent intimidation to bring about transformative change. Historians estimate that as many as 40 bombings occurred between 1940-1960. 

The A. H. Parker High School is approximately 4 blocks north of Hardware Park. Originally named the ‘Industrial High School’, the school was Birmingham’s first public high school for African American students. It was later renamed in honor of its founding principal, Dr. Arthur Harold Parker.

Recently, the City of Birmingham was awarded a $50M grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to revitalize Smithfield. City councilor Darrell O’Quinn referred to the revitalization project as the “largest scale revitalization project that’s been done in the state of Alabama possibly ever.” The projects made possible through this grant are complemented by ongoing work from organizations like Freshwater Land Trust.

Freshwater Land Trust has been active in Smithfield for years and is working to complete “Corridor A” of the Red Rock Trail System that will connect Graymont, Smithfield, and the historic Black Merchant and Civil Rights districts in downtown Birmingham. 

We are excited to join in these efforts and help establish Smithfield as a modern center for physical product innovation.

Our Spring 2024 NextGen Cohort is combating the opioid crisis. Learn more.