UA Tech Park Celebrates 20 Years, Looks to Future
'Interactive ground' has been created, says its associate vice president, and incubation and product development will grow from that soil.
A rich history that includes the late billionaire Howard Hughes and software giant Microsoft was celebrated recently by the UA Tech Park, but the focus of the sprawling site on Tucson's southeast side remains squarely on the future.
What began in 1994 with a regional economic development mission has since turned its attention to facilitating the testing, evaluation and demonstration of new technologies. In 2013, with the initiation of Tech Launch Arizona to enhance the University of Arizona's technology commercialization efforts, the Office of University Research Parks was renamed Tech Parks Arizona and incorporated as a component of TLA.
It's a different place from years ago, when the land at Interstate 10 and Rita Road was purchased from IBM (which had acquired it from the Hughes estate) and Microsoft was an early tenant. But in the last 10 years, Tech Parks Arizona has incubated almost 100 companies, and its associate vice president, Bruce Wright, says to expect that pace to accelerate.
In the wake of the Tech Park's recent 20th anniversary celebration, Wright put the past and future in perspective.
What has been the highlight of Tech Park's first 20 years?
"We have played an important role in advancing technology and commercialization. The tech parks have been a major regional employment center and contributed significantly to the local economy."
What excites you most about what's happening now?
"We're aligned with the University's Never Settle plan and initiatives, and we're integrated well with Tech Launch Arizona and its road map. We're aggressively trying to recruit in six key areas: advanced energy, both renewable and solar; agriculture, arid lands and water technology; biosciences, including medical dignostics and devices; defense and security, including border and homeland technology; intelligent transportation systems and smart vehicles; and mining technology, analytics and chemistry.
"Cutting across those are some larger themes: imaging, big data, sustainability and advanced manufacturing. There's an intersection, and you find areas where we have identifiable research strengths."
If you had to give an "elevator speech" for the tech parks, what would it be?
"We have really evolved around product development, and we offer that as a value proposition to companies and also to our faculty and students. We say to companies that we've created 'interactive ground.' We offer market access to the Mountain West, the ability to advance through product development, and a connection to the University and its research enterprise."
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