Report claims need to strengthen Arizona's technology sector
PHOENIX – Science Foundation Arizona (SFAz), a nonprofit public-private partnership that serves as a catalyst for investments in research and education in Arizona while strengthening its economic future, has announced findings from the 2012 Annual Report Card on Arizona’s technology sector.
The 2012 Annual Report Card highlights the significance of SFAz’s strategically targeted investments in grant programs for R&D partnerships, technology commercialization and STEM education, which illustrate a steadily increasing return on investment to Arizona during the past five years.
SFAz has awarded 150 individual grants since 2007, which has led to 1,776 direct jobs (up 252 from FY 2011), 179 patents filed and/or issued (up 59 from FY 2011), 22 technology companies formed in Arizona (up seven from FY 2011) and 16 technology licenses in place (up four from FY 2011). Another significant increase was the rising level of industry matching and other nonstate research funding raised in support of the grant activities. For each $1 invested in research grants (funded primarily with state money), an additional $4.40 was raised in support of the SFAz grant activities, a substantial increase from the $3.15 reported a year ago.
The grant-impact analysis also showed SFAz had a higher rate of performance with respect to commercialization compared to typical state university activities. For instance, one patent was applied for or issued for every $1.8 million in total university research funding generated during the past five years which is ahead of the five-year Arizona university-wide average of one patent applied for or issued per $4.1 million in funding.
The annual report also showed that among SFAz grants one new company start-up was initiated for every $14.3 million in total university research funding from SFAz during the past five years, also ahead of the five-year Arizona university-wide average of one start-up per $93 million.
Although SFAz’s strategic methods are making a substantial impact on the state, findings from Arizona’s annual technology and innovation report card suggest a number of key challenges in areas critical to building a top-tier technology ecosystem. In most cases, the state is failing to keep pace with national trends. Key concerns include:
• Arizona’s technology industries had employment declines and fared little better than the overall private sector in the first year of the economic recovery.
• In seed and early stage capital, Arizona recorded a sharp decline in 2011, while the nation increased.
• In university research expenditures, Arizona grew, but slower than the nation. In industry R&D, Arizona fell more sharply than the nation, after outpacing growth through much of the last decade.
• In higher education, the number of degrees awarded in science, engineering and computer-related fields declined in Arizona while holding steady nationally.
• And the recent National Assessment of Educational Progress results in 8th grade science found Arizona’s average below the nation.
These metrics indicate the critical importance of SFAz in keeping Arizona competitive with the rest of the nation, as well as the need for sustained funding to continue this level of results and fostering key partnerships.
The studies were conducted by Battelle, the world’s largest nonprofit independent research and development organization. “It’s clear that improving the state’s technology and innovation sectors is critical to Arizona’s future,” said Ryan Helwig, senior economist at Battelle’s Technology Partnership Practice. “This report shows the powerful impact SFAz is having on those sectors as well as growing the next generation of talent at an accelerated rate. Their work remains imperative to Arizona’s future.”