Op-Ed: Innovation is the Secret to Our Future
State of Innovation
Neil Giuliano, Dean Duncan, Grace O'Sullivan

Op-Ed: Innovation is the Secret to Our Future

‘Innovation’ means the introduction of something new or different. And this is the key to creating a prosperous future for all of Arizona

While we have done well to cultivate a diverse array of initiatives, programs, businesses, and organizations dedicated to innovation across the state, Arizona stands at a crossroads when it comes to our innovation economy. One path leads us on the route we’ve been on, with gradual and incremental advancements to truly establishing Arizona as a leader in technology and innovation. The other path takes us down the road where scaled investment in proven economic engines will solidify Arizona as a state known for economic prosperity, technology solutions, and growing new industries. 

At the Partnership for Economic Innovation, our passionate collective of business and community leaders are on a mission to fulfill our potential as a state of becoming a world-class, diversified economy. We want Arizona to become the place for innovators to bring world-changing ideas to market, where all Arizonans have a chance and a clear pathway to becoming that next great innovator and have access to the jobs of the future.

One of PEI’s main strategies for helping Arizona accelerate our jump to an innovation economy is through industry-led Applied Research Centers, which are focused on developing emerging technologies with the potential to improve lives here in Arizona, and around the world. We’ve been able to accelerate important projects focused on next-generation wearable healthcare and blockchain technology through our Centers that wouldn’t have been possible without investment from the Arizona Legislature. 

As of last year, PEI was able to leverage approximately $800,000 in public funds made available by the state as part of the ACA-administered Applied Research Fund, combining those public funds with private funds to invest in applied research. According to a 2021 impact study from Rounds Consulting Group, that initial investment is projected to generate between a 4-to-1 to 5-to-1 return on investment for Arizona taxpayers over a decade – with every dollar of public investment generating $4 to $5 in state and local tax revenues.

Access to public funds is an important piece of the strategy, but it is not the only piece. PEI’s applied research model is scalable, so more public investment will build the momentum to achieve a ‘fly-wheel effect’ that will continue to demonstrate a return-on-investment year-over-year.

At the same time, our public universities and community colleges are also laying the groundwork for a robust innovation economy and creating new pathways for Arizona workers at all levels to pursue the jobs of the future.

On March 3, we will be digging deeper into some of these strategies at PEI’s second annual State of Innovation Summit. It is a free and virtual event where all policymakers, business leaders, technology advocates, and innovators are invited to attend to learn more about our vision for a prosperous Arizona economy.

In addition to PEI’s Applied Research Centers, the State of Innovation Summit will take attendees inside the progress made in advancing Arizona State University’s Science and Technology Centers as part of their New Economy Initiative. STCs allow industry to work directly with university faculty and students in key areas that are going to be critical to Arizona’s next economy. ASU’s New Economy Initiative is the key driver of the university’s ambitious impact goals of producing 40,000 high wage jobs by 2041 and doubling the state’s return on investment by 2032.

This year, it’s important that we continue our momentum and make the investments needed to scale the impacts of applied research and economic accelerators on our state – at the pace of innovation.  A continued investment of $3-5 million in the Applied Research Fund and $34.5 million in ASU’s New Economy Initiative will make a huge impact on our jump to an innovation-driven economy. 

This continuum of investment is necessary if we are truly going to have Arizona be a leader in technological innovation, entrepreneurship, and economic growth. 

Dean Duncan is Executive Director of the Partnership for Economic Innovation, a passionate collective of business and community leaders dedicated to accelerating Arizona’s economic opportunities. He is also co-host for the 2022 State of Innovation Summit. Learn more at azpei.org. 

Grace O’Sullivan serves as Vice President of Corporate Engagement and Strategic Partnerships at ASU Knowledge Enterprise. Grace’s efforts lead to efficient and win-win collaborations between the private sector and the nation’s most innovative school, Arizona State University. She is a board member of the Partnership for Economic Innovation and co-host for the 2022 State of Innovation Summit. 

Neil Giuliano is President and CEO of Greater Phoenix Leadership,  serves as a board member of the Partnership for Economic Innovation and is a former Mayor of Tempe, Arizona.

This article was originally published in the Arizona Capitol Times. Subscribe to read the full article here.