The Power of Tucson’s Technology Sectors | Tech Parks Arizona

The Power of Tucson’s Technology Sectors

By: Bruce Wright, Associate Vice President, Tech Parks Arizona

The University of Arizona’s Tech Parks are more than just a collection of buildings. They are places where technology companies can thrive and grow through a series of business development and support programs and services and connections to the University’s research enterprise.  That is why our business recruitment strategy is focused around the University of Arizona’s research strengths and the presence of key industry clusters in the related technology sectors.   

It is often said that economic development is a contact support. That is certainly the case in attracting fast growth technology companies to Tucson and Southern Arizona.  Tech Parks Arizona actively recruits companies through a targeted digital marketing campaign focused on the key industry sectors.  These technology sectors include sustainable mining, aerospace, defense and security, health and biosciences, intelligent transportation systems and smart vehicles, advanced energy, and arid lands agriculture and water.  This innovative strategy dovetails with the region’s broader economic development strategy.

Our recruitment efforts are organized through a program called Global Advantage. This program focuses on domestic and international technology companies that want expand into new markets and demonstrate their products to customers.

At the heart of our recruitment efforts is promoting Tucson’s role as an international center of technology innovation and commercialization. For this reason, Tech Parks Arizona has joined in partnership with other economic development organizations to help build and expand Southern Arizona’s industry clusters.   

For example, with participation by the City of Tucson, Pima County, Pima Association of Governments, Pima College, and University of Arizona, Tech Parks Arizona is spearheading an effort to establish Tucson as a Center of Excellence in intelligent transportation systems and smart vehicles.   A key component of this initiative is the research being conducted by the UA’s Transportation Research Institute led by Dr. Larry Head.  Another part of this initiative is the effort by The City of Tucson to have our community designated by the federal government as a Smart City.  The Tech Parks have teamed up with Musselman Honda Raceway to provide facilities and a raceway where companies can test and demonstrate their technology in this fast emerging field.

Another example is the renewable energy field.  Tucson has emerged as a center of solar energy development and deployment. The leaders in the effort have been the University of Arizona and Tucson Electric Power (TEP). Through a unique public-private partnership, the UA and TEP have developed one of the largest multi-technology solar testing and demonstration sites in the U.S., the Solar Zone at the UA Tech Park. Researchers and companies work together to evaluate how a variety of solar technologies perform side-by-side under identical operating conditions. As part of Solar Zone Phase 2 research and development has shifted to focus on energy storage and grid optimization.  One of the first grid-connected lithium battery system projects in North America, sponsored by E.On, was just dedicated at the Solar Zone. Energy storage systems help TEP to use renewable resources more effectively and efficiently within their electric grid.

For more than two decades Tucson has been known internationally as the “Optics Valley”.  The UA College of Optical Sciences is recognized as one of the top educational and research centers in optics and photonics in the world.  In part, the UA’s leadership in the field of optics has helped to develop Tucson as a world leader is several related areas including astronomy and space sciences.  Collectively these programs have spawned a robust industry base with product applications in defense and security, solar energy, autonomous and connected vehicles, precision agriculture and space. Recently business and university leaders have joined together to revitalize and reenergize the optics industry cluster in Southern Arizona. Tech Parks Arizona is an active participant in this initiative.     A recent development in this collaboration resulted in Optics Valley being selected as one of three partner regions to develop business-to-business research collaborations with Optence e.V., an optics and photonics industry cluster based in the states of Rhineland-Palatinate and Hesse in Germany.  This collaboration will be funded by an award made to Optence e.V by the German Federal Ministry for Science and Technology and it will tie Tucson’s Optics Valley very closely to one of Germanys’ most important centers of the optics and photonics industry in Wetzlar, home of Leica.

Marketing and recruitment activities centered on our technology sectors are helping to draw national and international companies to the region. As an example, Tech Parks Arizona and its Global Advantage Partners have recently recruited several new technology companies into the region, including companies from Detroit, Tempe, Israel, and Mexico.

Through our targeted efforts at business attraction and recruitment, we can expand and diversify Southern Arizona’s economy. However, we need to do a better job of exploiting the value of our technology sectors and marketing Tucson as a leading-edge, international technology community. The University of Arizona, including Tech Launch Arizona and Tech Parks Arizona, stand ready to assist in this effort.  

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