UA Refocuses Tech Park Strategy | Tech Parks Arizona

UA Refocuses Tech Park Strategy

Arizona Daily Star | August 31, 2014

Photo-voltaic solar arrays make up The Solar Zone on the campus of the UA Tech Park, 9070 S. Rita Road. The 1,345-acre research park on Tucson’s southeast side hosts technology businesses of varying sizes.

The University of Arizona’s technology park is nearing its 20th anniversary with a new strategy focusing on more active recruitment of firms eager to collaborate with the UA.

Under Tech Parks Arizona’s new strategy, two new companies so far have been lured to the sprawling UA Tech Park — formerly called the UA Science and Technology Park — at 9070 S. Rita Road.

The Global Advantage program focuses on identifying and courting companies that are eager to partner with the UA in six technology areas.

“It’s a comprehensive strategy for trying to attract technology companies to the tech park and to the region, that want to have relationships with the university,” said Bruce Wright, associate vice president of Tech Parks Arizona.

The new strategy is part of an ongoing overhaul of UA tech park operations under Tech Launch Arizona, the UA’s technology commercialization arm.

The new Global Advantage strategy aims to more actively identify companies keen to collaborate with the UA and other tech-park tenants, and to help them leverage the tech park’s advantages in regional market access, collaborative resources for business and product development, skilled workers and facilities such as offices and lab space, Wright said.

Playing to the strengths of the UA and Tucson, Global Advantage focuses on six technology areas:
•Advanced energy, including solar and other renewables;
•Agriculture, water and arid-lands technology;
•Biosciences, with a focus on medical devices and diagnostics;
•Mining technology, including sustainability and analytics;
•And intelligent transportation systems, such as so-called “smart car” technology.

The UA Tech Park is initially touting university resources and collaboration in areas including informatics and data processing, imaging and optics, sustainability including advanced energy systems, and advanced manufacturing, Wright said.

“That begins to define the areas where we think we can provide world-class assistance to these companies,” he said.

So-called “attraction teams” have been formed to work with prospective companies in key areas, Wright noted. Each team is comprised of a UA researcher, an industry expert, a Tech Parks business-development leader, a representative from an economic-development group and a UA intern.

Students from the UA’s School of Geography and Development have worked to identify prospective tech-park tenants in renewable energy and security. This fall, they will survey prospects in transportation, mining and water, Wright said, adding that about 120 companies are on the prospect list so far.

The UA credited the nascent Global Advantage program with the recruitment of two high-tech companies that recently joined the UA Tech Park:
•Cleveland Electric Laboratories is using the tech park’s 194-acre Solar Zone — a large-scale test bed for solar technologies — as a test site for its fiber optic-based sensing systems.
•Sierra Vista-based Thompson-Wimmer Inc. has opened a small office at the Tech Park to advance its consulting and engineering business for unmanned aircraft in anticipation of the opening of the national airspace to commercial drone operations by federal regulators.

Jack Lieske, president of Twinsburg, Ohio-based Cleveland Electric Laboratories, said the company has already installed two fiber optic-based underground sensing systems, called FiberStrike, at the Solar Zone and plans a larger installation.

The system incorporates acoustic and other sensors along a fiber line to instantly sense and analyze disruptions that could signal an intrusion.

The 74-year-old company makes mechanical instruments and sensors mainly for the aerospace industry at a location in Tempe, but the tech park will become a center of research and development for the company, Lieske said.

“The opportunity for collaboration is one of the main things, and the interaction with the university itself and its graduate programs and students that can apply their learning to your application and product and potential,” Lieske said, citing the UA’s highly-rated College of Optical Sciences.

Thompson-Wimmer doesn’t make unmanned aircraft but has worked as a consultant and integrator of drone systems of aircraft and sensors, said Graham Hauptman, the company’s unmanned aircraft program manager.

The company plans to be ready to offer systems and related services, including remote piloting, as soon as the Federal Aviation Administration issues rules allowing commercial drone overflights, Hauptman said. He said the company already is in discussions with companies in energy, mining and agriculture.

“We’re preparing ourselves so when the FAA releases its rules, we’re ready to go,” Hauptman said.

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