Arizona’s Entrepreneurial Song
Arizona State University Leverages Networks to Boost U.S. Southwest Regional Center of Innovation
In regions around the country, clusters of universities and high-tech companies partner with local and regional governments to boost tech-based economic growth and create good jobs. The two best examples are Silicon Valley, the hotbed of computer technology in northern California, and the metropolitan Boston area connected by Route 128, which is a nexus of biotechnology research and development. For a primer on innovation clusters, see our “Regional Centers of Innovation 101.”
The federal government provides large sums of funding for basic scientific research, and boasts a variety of different programs to help companies and state and local governments prepare executives and workers for employment at young, innovative companies seeking to commercialize this research. But the federal government lacks a comprehensive approach for innovation policy. What’s needed is today is a clear-eyed blueprint for developing more innovative clusters around the country that links together federal programs, academic institutions, companies, and local and regional policymakers. In this series, Science Progress will feature bold ideas from innovation experts across the nation for how the Obama administration can develop an effective innovation policy that creates jobs, enables economic mobility, enhances science, and grows the county’s competitiveness.
Arizona State University over the past six years has engaged in one of the largest efforts of institutional transformation in higher education in our country. ASU set out to build a solution-focused research institution combining the highest level of academic excellence with a range of programs and private-sector partners to generate positive economic and social impact for the Greater Phoenix metropolitan area and the U.S. Southwest. Although the university is first and foremost committed to educating the students of Arizona, it is equally a discovery organization, focused on contributing to regional economic development through enhanced research and academic programs, including major interdisciplinary initiatives directed at finding innovative solutions to the world’s greatest challenges.
One of the results is SkySong, an “innovation intermediary” at ASU that offers programs and services to facilitate networking connectivity, boost regional marketing, and accelerate the formation of seed capital and venture capital behind promising new technologies and young companies while leveraging a host of other workforce development and entrepreneurial training resources from multiple sources, both public and private. SkySong, just over a year old, has become the new home and central location for a number of ASU programs that assist in the advancement of technological innovation, cross-disciplinary collaboration, and industry linkages in the Phoenix metropolitan area.
The SkySong Innovation Center is a 1.2 million square foot mixed-use facility developed in partnership with the City of Scottsdale and private-sector developers and financiers. But SkySong is more than a physical place—it now serves as the critical innovation intermediary (see sidebar) for the region as well as a physical hub for student, faculty, and community and global entrepreneurs. SkySong is an assembly point for knowledge and technology research and commerce, which serves as a nucleus for an entire open-ended community of entrepreneurs dedicated to innovation and learning.
The Center breaks from the traditional real estate-focused “research park” by acting as a hub for knowledge-driven industries, technology innovation, and commercial activity. At SkySong, ASU has a place to accelerate all of its affiliated enterprises, which fall into four general categories:
- Spinout companies formed from ASU inventions and technologies (28 over the last 5 years).
- Companies receiving training, mentoring and networking services from ASU Technopolis (385 companies, 800 entrepreneurs).
- Companies located at SkySong, or in the process of evaluating the U.S. market (currently 44 enterprises from 11 different countries).
- Student ventures supported by ASU’s Edson Student Entrepreneur Initiative (60 student ventures, 150 students).
These successes are the result of SkySong quickly becoming a meeting point that connects a host of diverse actors to enhance the regional innovation economy. SkySong’s global orientation raises the stature of the center by increasing opportunities for local and regional companies as well as attracting international innovators with different approaches through the diversity of entrepreneurs. This intermingling creates an innovative culture at SkySong which supports Greater Phoenix’s growth in the global innovation economy.
SkySong, which opened in January 2008, has just started the process of building a vibrant regional center of innovation—a process that may take some time to bear sustainable fruit. Its development, though, provides valuable lessons for other universities and innovation policymakers. SkySong’s role as a critical innovation intermediary in the Greater Phoenix area is the culmination of ASU’s concerted effort to engage innovators and entrepreneurs through various channels over the past six years. The evolution of these services can provide a number of lessons to other entities and regions seeking to strengthen their innovative environments. These lessons (explained in greater detail later in the paper) include:
The Innovation Intermediary
Increasingly, universities across the country are being challenged to contribute to regional economies. According to regional innovation consultancy New Economy Strategies, in order to connect and utilize the strengths of any geographical area to drive innovative growth, regions need to develop “innovation intermediaries.” As defined by NES, these innovation intermediaries are “at the center of a region’s efforts to align local technologies, assets and resources to work together on innovation.”
This approach best describes ASU’s strategy for innovation-based economic development. SkySong plays four key roles as an innovation intermediary in the Southwest regional economy:
- Provides operating mechanisms and venues for information exchange and connectivity as a neutral convener for regional growth
- Serves as an accelerator that advances technologies into the marketplace for regional economic benefit. To do so, it must combine scientific knowledge, market awareness business know-how, and complementary investment programs in one place
- Researches, identifies, and markets regional strengths to continue to refine and position comparative advantages
- Strategically directs and manages resources to develop core competencies in a region
- Focus on executing rapid and efficient deals through licenses to industry and investors on reasonable terms, as opposed to short-term revenue realization
- Recognize that technology license agreements cannot be standardized across industries, and that a reasonable and flexible approach to deals is required
- Establish strong investor networks to create interest in capital formation events
- Deliver good leads to investors to establish reputation as excellent source of opportunities
- Develop programs that bind investors to the innovation center and the university through creative ways such as leveraging global networks
Entrepreneurial Training and Global Acceleration
- Implement an account management system to track companies progress and needs and determine top prospects for growth
- Build a dedicated global business development function to provide companies with customer leads
- Understand that entrepreneurship is not solely a business discipline—students from any area of study can benefit from experiential learning opportunities
- Acknowledge that students can make important contributions to companies’ growth while enhancing their own learning and future career prospects
Connectivity, Marketing, and Leverage
- Coordinate with other regional economic development entities to maintain and advance messages and purpose
- Recognize that a multi-faceted, two-way global environment is an important marketing and operational differentiator
In the analysis that follows, we will review how SkySong acts as an innovation intermediary in the ways presented above, and how our programs and services developed over time to reach the critical mass we believe is now evident in our innovation cluster. In the end, we believe science and innovation policymakers in Washington and statehouses around the country could learn from our experience and in turn help our cluster and others flourish.
The Greater Phoenix metropolitan area provides a rich platform for innovation-based economic development. The region has over four million people and is the 14th largest U.S. metro economy, with over $180 billion in annual economic activity. Its population growth (one of the largest and most consistent in the United States) is driven by in-migration of young professionals: 25 percent of in-migration is comprised of people ages 20 to 29, and approximately half of them come from California.
Due to the influx of new talent and relatively low tax and regulatory burdens, Greater Phoenix and Arizona consistently rank as desirable places to start and grow companies. Entrepreneur magazine, for example, recently ranked Phoenix as the top city for entrepreneurs for its desirable climate, high population growth and infrastructure, which support growing markets. Additionally, Greater Phoenix and Arizona have deep-rooted ties to the semiconductor and aerospace sectors, resulting in a complex network of second-and third-tier suppliers.
More recently, clean technology and biosciences companies have emerged as a result of a series of investments from the state, private sector and municipalities. And Greater Phoenix continues to benefit from its location adjacent to California, connected by over 170 flights daily (90 minutes to Silicon Valley, 60 minutes to Los Angeles/San Diego) and yet advantaged by a lower business operating cost structure and a high, but affordable, quality of life.
Greater Phoenix is one of the largest U.S. metros with only one research university, Arizona State University. Accordingly, compared to many other universities around the world, ASU plays an unusually proactive role in stimulating economic growth. ASU’s vision of the “New American University” is to realize a new and differentiated model of higher education. A major imperative of this vision is taking responsibility for the social and economic well-being of the region. With over 67,000 students across four campuses, ASU’s presence spans the Phoenix metropolitan area.
SkySong: Innovation Intermediary as Regional Economic Driver
ASU—and SkySong in particular—assist in the advancement of technological innovation, cross-disciplinary collaboration and industry linkages in the Phoenix metropolitan area. ASU interacts with all companies and organizations affiliated with SkySong for mutual benefit, whether it be education, research, or workforce development. The university has located its entrepreneurial education and technology transfer units at SkySong, as well as other programs and services that coalesce into a complete suite of resources that provide beginning-to-end support for innovative ventures.
SkySong’s approach gives multiple options to prospective companies, from leased suites and offices to access to hot desks and virtual access. These options broaden the range of companies that can utilize all the benefits provided at SkySong, which has become the platform through which ASU develops a vibrant network of global entrepreneurs and innovators. The development of SkySong in 2004 and 2005 was based on the best practices of global innovation centers worldwide. These include:
- Active involvement from a research university or other research institutions
- Dynamic mixed-use campus with at least 16/6 use (16 hours a day, 6 days a week)
- Global orientation
- Numerous leasing options to attract the most tenants and participants
- Defining themes and cluster initiatives necessary for success
- Political and community support
These practices have underpinned SkySong’s development and its successful opening in 2008. While not all features are in place (some mixed-use elements are still under development), the vast majority of these principles have been realized at SkySong.
Innovation Intermediary Function: Connectivity
SkySong serves as a connection point to create networks for the development of an innovative environment which includes ASU researchers, entrepreneurs and students, private enterprise, capital investors, other research organizations, non-profits, and global partners. This broad network creates numerous pathways for innovators to move ideas from conception to the marketplace.
Greater Phoenix is a geographically disperse place, covering over 2,000 square miles. While many of its municipalities are creating vibrant hubs within their cities, SkySong serves as the singular hub where people who are interested in global innovation and entrepreneurship can meet. Over 40 enterprises from 11 countries are located there, along with a critical mass of ASU’s university-wide innovation and entrepreneurial units.
Additionally, hundreds of events drawing thousands of visitors are held at SkySong. Through its physical design of centrally located cafes and deliberate lack of visual privacy, student entrepreneurs can find themselves drinking tea next to an angel investor, or an entrepreneur from Mexico can meet a government official from Singapore, or a U.S. congressperson can meet a faculty member on the verge of creating a spinout company.
Innovation Intermediary Function: Marketing
When SkySong was conceptualized in 2004 and 2005, the technology community in our region was already completely globalized. Yet that reality had not translated into policies and programs in Greater Phoenix. Greater Phoenix had no World Trade Center, and its sole incubator was closed in 2002. Efforts to attract foreign direct investment attraction were underfunded relative to other regions of our country or other countries of similar scale.
Consistent with the findings of its global benchmarking study, ASU officials determined that SkySong would not only be a vehicle to accelerate in-state technologies and enterprises, but also a global portal to attract innovators from around the world interested in accessing the U.S. market, as well as to inspire Arizona-based entrepreneurs to export and globalize. ASU decided to recruit small and large global companies that could engage in beneficial exchange with the university on multiple levels.
SkySong’s global marketing efforts leverage ASU’s global partnerships with universities that share a similarly entrepreneurial mindset in countries such as Mexico, Turkey, Ireland, and Singapore. In several countries, SkySong has engaged consultants to promote SkySong and ASU in their respective regions. At the same time ASU has partnered with the primary economic development organizations, the Greater Phoenix Economic Council and the Arizona Department of Commerce, and these organizations in turn are now more focused on foreign direct investment. The U.S. Department of Commerce’s Export Assistance Center, the primary agency in Arizona that assists Arizona-based companies to export and globalize, also has located its headquarters at SkySong.
The greatest marketing asset is SkySong’s design as a full-service hub for global, national, and Arizona enterprises. SkySong reduces the cost, risk, and time of entering the U.S. market. ASU has built on the natural advantages of a highly-ranked business climate, deep technology base, and favorable geographic location to bring heightened visibility to Arizona, the American Southwest, and the university among innovators throughout the world.
Innovation Intermediary Function: Programs
The scale and diversity of the programs offered by SkySong differentiates it from other regional innovation centers. ASU provides numerous vehicles for venture capital formation and business acceleration for students, faculty, and U.S. and global entrepreneurs at SkySong. SkySong offers these companies programs in the following areas:
- Technology transfer
- Direct investment
- Seed capital
- Entrepreneurial training
- Global acceleration
- Student entrepreneurship
Each of these programs is critical in its own right to the successful commercialization of innovative products and services, and each of these ingredients is part and parcel of numerous success stories from other, more established innovation clusters such as Silicon Valley or Route 128 in Massachusetts attest. SkySong, however, is pioneering the combination of these six programs to rapidly build a new innovation cluster.
Arizona Technology Enterprises, a separate limited liability company formed in 2003, acts as ASU’s exclusive intellectual property management and technology transfer organization. Because the Arizona state constitution does not permit public universities to hold any ownership in spinout companies, AzTE acts as a proxy for the university with the legal ability to hold equity in ASU spin-out companies, as well as equity in “spin-in” companies—firms willing to exchange an equity stake for access to SkySong’s services. Operating as a separate entity from the university frees AzTE from typical institutional constraints, yielding additional flexibility and speed in its deal-making activities.
AzTE’s core strategy and operations are focused on deal flow, rather than revenue generation. Many university technology transfer offices have zero or negative income, with licensing income being highly concentrated among infrequent “blockbuster” technologies developed by a small subset of universities (most with medical schools). In fact, few university licenses generate any substantial licensing income. In fiscal year 2004, for instance, according to the Association of University Technology Managers, only 0.5 percent of all licenses (111 out of 22,465) generated over $1 million in revenues. In addition, significant monetary return on investment can take five to fifteen years to materialize after the initial patent application is filed on a university invention.
With these lessons, AzTE focuses instead on maximizing opportunities to move university technology to the industry as a long-term investment strategy. The organization manages its intellectual property for deal flow density rather than for revenue—in other words, work to maximize the number of inventions and discoveries actually moved into use instead of trying to realize near-term income from fewer and bigger deals. Speed to market, flexibility, and even some risk-sharing are critical elements in AzTE’s approach to licensing deals with industry and investors.
This evolution to an emphasis on creative and efficient deal flow is closely tied to ASU’s view that technology transfer is an important mechanism for dissemination of the University’s knowledge creation—a pathway that requires a longer-term perspective with regard to outcomes irrespective of financial rewards.
In addition, AzTE is leveraging its professional staff and resources and expanding its intellectual property portfolio through agreements with universities outside the United States. AzTE is collaborating with Tecnológico de Monterrey in Mexico and Dublin City University in Ireland to protect and commercialize in the United States selected intellectual property developed by their researchers. This returns discretionary income to the universities, including ASU through AzTE’s share of licensing income, for reinvestment in their research and educational enterprises. AzTE also has a technology-transfer collaboration agreement with the University of Manchester, which mutually benefits each organization through the provision of additional resources and networks to carry out their activities.
In the United States, AzTE has a formal agreement with the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Technology Transfer for each organization to market the other’s technologies.
ASU’s strategy to increase investment capital is to create its own funds when possible and build specific mechanisms that result in local and national capital placed in ASU-affiliated ventures. The ASU Catalyst Fund, for example, is designed to prepare early-stage technologies for licensing. While the fund is small (approximately $250,000 annually), it has been successful in targeting its investments. In the four years since inception, it has invested $1.15 million in 26 ASU technologies, eight of which have been spun out as part of the creation of a new company or licensed to an existing company, and five more are in the licensing process.
Funds provided by the ASU Catalyst Fund are unsecured loans that are paid back with first revenue dollars if the technology is successfully commercialized. Investment decisions are based on the commercial potential of the technology as well as the impact the funding will have on moving the technology to market.
ASU is looking to increase the capitalization and scope of the fund to include technologies that may not have been invented at ASU but which may be strategic in other ways to the University. These technologies may be from partner institutions that are commercialized at SkySong or complement ASU research. ASU has also been successful in the past year in reaching three “spin in” agreements, which give ASU, through AzTE, an equity stake in companies to which SkySong provides business services. The Catalyst Fund provides another mechanism that can entice companies into a spin-in agreement.
ASU Technopolis, ASU’s premier initiative to coach and connect community entrepreneurs and innovators to private sources of capital has been the administrator for the Invest Southwest Capital Conference since 2006. Similar to events held in regions throughout the United States, Invest Southwest attracts local and national investors who see presentations from approximately 15 competitively selected and highly coached companies that are optimal early stage investment targets.
Since 1992, 50 percent of the companies presenting at Invest Southwest and its precursors have received capital investment through the conference. Venture capital firms represented in recent years include Palo Alto, CA- and WaltAdvanced Technology Ventures; In-Q-Tel, the Arlington, VA-based venture arm of the Central Intelligence Agency; Silicon Valley’s Bay City Capital and Focus Ventures; and Salt Lake City-based EPIC Ventures. The most recent conference included 124 investors in attendance.
Another significant event, the ASU Technology Forum, organized by AzTE, focuses more specifically on ASU technologies, providing capital investors with visibility into ASU research. Equally important, the forum provided researchers connections with the commercial contacts that can direct technologies in a market-driven direction. The initial forum, held in February 2009, had 130 attendees, include 50 capital investors.
In December 2009, ASU will combine these two events, and add a Global Technology Showcase to include its partners in Mexico, Singapore, Turkey, Ireland, Brazil, and the United Kingdom. By broadening the scope, ASU can provide more value to attending investors, increasing its attractiveness as a licensing partner and a convener of global innovation.
ASU also works globally to increase seed-capital investments in early-stage technology companies. In 2008, for example, ASU Technopolis coordinated and managed Invest Mexico, the first national risk capital conference in Mexico, which was modeled on Invest Southwest. ASU’s university partner, Tecnológico de Monterrey, utilized its broad networks in Mexico to identify promising technology companies. ASU brought U.S. investors, and Tecnológico de Monterrey invited leading Mexican angel investors. ASU Technopolis coached the Mexican entrepreneurs on how to present their business value proposition in the language of global private equity investment. As of May 1, 2009, two presenting companies (out of ten) are nearing investment deals with Mexican angel investors who attended the conference. Discussions for a similar event in Ireland are also underway.
ASU Technopolis brings together entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, and creative thinkers in the Phoenix region. Modeled after the University of California at San Diego’s CONNECT program, ASU Technopolis encourages innovation and economic development by providing fledgling technology and life sciences entrepreneurs with skills and strategies necessary to convert ideas into commercially viable businesses. Guidance is available for product development, business infrastructure development, proof-of-concept capital formation, revenue development, and access to funding.
ASU Technopolis facilitates and stimulates economic development by offering a series of rigorous programs taught by successful, “been there, done that” entrepreneurs. Programs include Small Business Investment Research grant-writing workshops and Launch Prep, a new venture capital basics course, offered on a non-competitive basis. In contrast, participation in the Technopolis Mentoring Program is highly competitive. The Mentoring Program utilizes the large number of retired CEOs and other high-level business executives who live in the Phoenix metro area to create two- or three-person mentoring teams to work with select companies for a six-month period.
Through ASU Technopolis, approximately 800 entrepreneurs and innovators representing 376 companies have received coaching and mentoring. Some notable results include the subsequent funding of $27.5 million for Ulthera, a medical device company, $5 million of National Institutes of Health grants to Kinetic Muscles and $3.5 million for Flypaper Studios, a software company.
ASU SkySong has designated staff members who work with SkySong companies to provide business development services and establish connections with ASU. Business development is a key selling point and critical resource, particularly with international companies with less established U.S. networks. The Global Business Development Director is responsible for generating sales and investment leads to support companies’ expansion in the U.S. market. The generation of sales leads supports company growth and closer connections with ASU.
Similarly, the Corporate Liaison is responsible for forming relationships between companies and ASU, which may include linkages to the research enterprise, technology transfer, specialized facilities, and executive education programs as well as to students. ASU SkySong is currently developing an account management system to systematically track and oversee these relationships, ensuring continuity of service and attention across programs.
SkySong staff in this area create highly interactive and long-term relationships between global innovators and networks tied to ASU. The SkySong platform is extended through partnerships with innovation centers throughout the world, such as iAxil in Singapore, Dublin City University’s Invent in Ireland, and most notably, the United States-Mexico Foundation for Science, or FUMEC. Funded by Mexico’s Secretary of the Economy, FUMEC has located its sixth “TechBA” location in Arizona as a place for Mexican technology companies to expand their global reach. SkySong also hosts the statewide headquarters of the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Export Assistance Center, which works with Arizona-based companies to assist them in entering global markets.
Student entrepreneurship programs also support companies at SkySong via internships, market research projects, and product development services, all at competitive business rates. These programs demonstrate the value that creative student workers can have on business success. Nearly every company at SkySong cites access to ASU’s large, diverse, and talented workforce as a prime asset of SkySong.
University-wide experiential learning programs are concentrated at SkySong so students can gain real-world entrepreneurial experience in an environment that includes innovators from Arizona and around the world, investors, and service providers. Associated programs, listed below, are part of ASU’s institution-wide “Entrepreneurship at ASU” initiative, which is supported by a $5 million grant from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation as part of the Kauffman Campuses Initiative.
Unlike many universities, ASU’s approach weaves entrepreneurship throughout all academic disciplines. ASU has signature entrepreneurship programs in the arts, nursing, journalism, and non-profit management, as well as in the business and engineering schools. The effort includes spurring new research into innovation in Greater Phoenix, new curriculum development, and experiential learning to create a large pipeline of entrepreneurs to benefit the region. Student experiential learning entrepreneurial programs based at SkySong include:
- Edson Student Entrepreneur Initiative, which provides a total of $200,000 in entrepreneurial training and mentoring and office space each year to approximately 10 student-led ventures per year. ASU’s approach is distinct in that it invests in for-profit and not-for-profit enterprises led by students from across the university and maximizes the number of ventures supported as opposed to traditional business plan competitions that fund only a small number of proposals.
- Entrepreneur Advantage, which provides $2,000 to $5,000 grants to approximately 25 student-led entrepreneurial projects per year. The goal of this program is provide students who have entrepreneurial aspirations but not as yet a focus for a sustainable venture with hands-on experience in entrepreneurship. Edson and EAP together have provided over $850,000 funding over the past four years to 90 student ventures and projects involving more than 200 students.
- Sun Devil Entrepreneurship Network, which connects small, innovative businesses with entrepreneurially minded ASU students. Startups benefit by gaining access to talented workers while students gain the experience of working in an entrepreneurial, and frequently global, environment.
- Technology Ventures Services Group, which is a teaching laboratory where students from several disciplines, including law, business, engineering, and science, work together to conduct technology assessments, patent status investigations, business modeling, competitive analyses and market assessment/research.
- InnovationSpace, which is an interdisciplinary product development course made up of design, engineering, and business students who work with companies on comprehensive product launches, while emphasizing social and environmental responsibility.
Students are also engaged in the design and operation of SkySong. A special competition was organized to operate the Sky Cafe, a central meeting point within the ASU space at SkySong and managed by ASU students. Design students are selected to provide displays and exhibits that enhance SkySong’s innovative environment. A cohort of anthropology students is part of the Phoenix Innovation Study, which is using SkySong as a case study for the process and management of innovation in the Phoenix metro area.
Innovation Intermediary Function: Leverage
SkySong is a partnership between ASU, ASU Foundation, the City of Scottsdale, and the private sector, including financial services company USAA and property development and real estate companies The Plaza Companies and Higgins Development Partners. All partners will benefit financially from the project over the long term. Since SkySong has been established, ASU has leveraged the platform to create new, innovative programs in partnership with industry.
For instance, ASU created a joint venture with Rolls-Royce to commercialize a handwriting verification technology. In this case, management of the corporate venturing arm of Rolls-Royce was convinced this technology had potential in the U.S. market, but until engagement with SkySong had no vehicle for its commercialization. ASU was able to identify a management team (via a “reverse” business plan competition open to entrepreneurs throughout Greater Phoenix) and is currently incubating this new startup company at SkySong. Other companies have expressed interest in utilizing this program to commercialize their selected technologies.
Going forward, ASU will focus on continual improvement of program delivery. Efficient, hands-on, market-oriented programs will maintain growth at SkySong, resulting in significant benefits for the entire region. Quality of service will raise the profile of SkySong, ASU, and Arizona as a global hub of innovation.
In technology transfer, we believe that our focus on doing rapid and efficient deals through licenses to industry and investors on reasonable terms—as opposed to short-term revenue realization—will prove to be effective in getting more ASU technologies to the point of public utilization. Success of these innovations will attract additional capital options to advance more technologies to later stages that are the current focus of capital investors. But we recognize that technology license agreements cannot be standardized across industries, and that a reasonable and flexible approach to deals is required. Collaborations with other technology transfer offices are useful in expanding our capacity and resources to effect technology transfer.
The capital networks ASU has established through successful delivery of events and conferences need to be deepened. Investors are more likely to engage with reliable partners who deliver good leads. ASU is increasing the quality and quantity of its portfolio through its own research growth, business attraction efforts and global partnerships. This portfolio growth will raise the profile of ASU as an investment partner. We also plan to foster closer relationships with individual investors and firms to deliver specific opportunities of interest to them.
We plan to continually adjust our resources to focus on the most promising geographical markets and industry verticals. Implementation of an account management system to track company progress and needs and determine top prospects for growth is underway and will be critical to this analysis.
ASU also will continue to provide experiential learning opportunities for students from all disciplines, and ensure that students can make important contributions to companies’ growth while enhancing their own learning and future career prospects. As SkySong continues its build out, an increasing number of students will have the opportunity to operate a business, work for a global technology company, or provide advanced business services to growing companies at SkySong. To help develop student entrepreneurship even more widely, we plan to develop closer working relationships with local high schools to spur interest in entrepreneurship at younger ages, creating a greater flow of interest not only at ASU, but whatever university the student may attend.
Finally, as a developing innovation intermediary SkySong needs to deepen and enhance its connectivity, marketing, and leverage. Coordination with other regional economic development entities is necessary to maintain and advance messages and purpose. We will expand on these efforts by focusing not just on attraction, but growth and investment strategy. And SkySong’s multi-faceted, two-way global environment, which is such an important marketing and operational differentiator for our cluster, needs to be expanded to include relationships with an increasing number of countries.
In short, ASU will continue to advance SkySong’s connectivity within Arizona, the United States, and globally to achieve its promise as a hub of global innovation. While SkySong’s launch has not occurred in an ideal economic climate, its approach and services have been successful in attracting an international mix of innovation-focused companies and organizations. Sustaining SkySong’s growth will require continued evolution and experimentation with program development to ensure that SkySong takes its place alongside San Diego and North Carolina’s Research Park Triangle as successful regional centers of innovation.
Julia Rosen is Associate Vice President, Innovation and Entrepreneurship in the Office of the Vice President for Research & Economic Affairs at Arizona State University.
Keith Aspinall is a Research Analyst in the Office of the Vice President for Research & Economic Affairs Arizona State University.
Augustine V. Cheng is the Managing Director and Chief Legal Officer of Arizona Technology Enterprises.
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