Center for Innovation re-opens
Will Ferguson / Arizona Daily Wildcat
Gov. Jan Brewer made an appearance for the official opening of the UA Center for Innovation at the UA Tech Park on Jan. 18, 2012. The Center for Innovation will help entrepreneurs with new business ventures.
Gov. Jan Brewer presided over a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the UA’s Science and Technology Park, which marked the re-opening and dedication of the Arizona Center for Innovation, a business support center specializing in technological developments on Wednesday.
“This is an investment that will bring novel technologies to the marketplace, create high-wage jobs and expand and diversify the economy of southern Arizona,” Brewer said.
The center received a $1.5 million state grant in 2010. Since then, the center has redesigned its methods of fostering small-business development. As a member of the National Business Incubation Association, the Arizona Center for Innovation now offers assistance to clients around the clock and provides them with up-to-date digital content. The center has also published a manual for entrepreneurs called “Incubation Workbook: Navigating Innovation from Concept to Commercialization.”
The grant funding also allowed for offices and laboratories to be updated. The center, in the UA Tech Park campus, is now an 18,000-square-foot building complete with a collaboration center and 14 lab benches.
Henry Koffler, former UA president and chair of the Arizona Center for Innovation Advisory Committee, was at the forefront of lobbying for this grant.
“Our team worked very hard to squeeze the maximum out of every dollar spent,” Koffler said. “(You) can’t create new jobs unless businesses are healthy.”
Koffler promised the governor that the committee would do everything possible to live up to her expectations. One of the main expectations is for the center to be a successful business incubator, which supports successful development and growth by providing entrepreneurs with a variety of targeted resources.
“Business incubation is a vital part for us to compete on the global stage,” Brewer said.
She called the Arizona Center for Innovation “an investment to bring novel technologies to the marketplace.”
Bruce Wright, associate vice president for University Research Parks, said that we may have “turned the corner” in overcoming the economic challenges Arizona has faced.
“We are a nation of innovation,“ he added. “Eighty percent of all new businesses fail within five years.” Those who incubate, he said, have an 87 percent success rate.
“An incubator like this one provides a place for new businesses to be nurtured,” said Len Jessup, dean of the Eller College of Management. “It dramatically increases their chance of survival.”
Presently, the Arizona Center for Innovation hosts nine clients specializing in life sciences, information technology, medical devices, medical tests or engineering. Three of these companies were founded by the UA.
Sean Wendt, a sociology student, said there is a lot of information technology behind his company, SportInception.com, a website that bridges links to users’ favorite sports teams. Wendt is the founder and CEO of the company, which is also a client of the center.
“The more we expand, the more sports we offer, the more employees we need,” Wendt said.
With the help of the center, entrepreneurs can receive the capital and expertise they need, Jessup said. Arizona has had a slower economic recovery rate, he said, because the state’s economy relied heavily upon tourism and real estate. This will put “more successful companies into the state,” Jessup added.