Carol Stewart has been named one of the Most Influential Women in Arizona Business for 2020 by AZ Business Magazine. Stewart is the Associate Vice President of Tech Parks Arizona for the University of Arizona.
Stewart went to school at Conestoga College for Business Administration. She has more than 20 years of experience working with research parks, technology commercialization, business incubation, governmental relations and business development.
The Daily Wildcat talked to Stewart via email about the Tech Park and what the recognition means to her.
Daily Wildcat: What is the Tech Park?
Carol Stewart: The UA Tech Park is a dynamic, interactive community where emerging companies and technology giants work side by side. The company roster includes companies like tech giants including IBM, Citi and Raytheon to fast-growth small and medium enterprises (SMEs) like Coherent, NP Photonics and Hamilton Innovations.
It also includes The UA Center for Innovation, a startup incubator, that is the heartbeat of the technology park with over two dozen (24) startup companies … Annually, the UA Tech Park generates an economic impact of $2 billion statewide. The UA Tech Park is home to over 50 tenant companies that employ nearly 6,000 people. The UA Tech Park is one of the region's largest employment centers … UACI support early-stage technology companies at any stage of development coming from both the University of Arizona as well as the general Tucson community. The UACI mission is to grow scalable startup ventures that fuel the Arizona economy
We are expanding the offerings by developing a new UA Tech Park at The Bridges … just minutes away from the University of Arizona’s main campus … The Bridges is part of a larger 350-acre master-planned development that includes hospitality, retail outlets, educational facilities and residential development providing a live, learn, work, play and stay environment.
DW: How did you get this position and what was the process like?
CS: As CEO of the Association of University Research Parks (AURP) at the time, I thought I was having a typical conversation with an HR recruiting organization to determine if there was anyone within the research park network that would be a good fit for the UA Tech Park role. At 30 minutes into the call the lead recruiter called a ‘time out’ and noted that he wanted me to consider the position. I was flattered, declined, and committed to send him a number of candidates that I knew were looking for new opportunities but needed to know more information before doing so.
I, of course, sent him half a dozen great candidates but couldn’t get our discussion and the opportunities in Tucson out of my head all weekend so decided to throw my hat in the ring. I had two amazing visits to Tucson to interview with Tech Launch Arizona (the office that commercializes innovation coming out of the University of Arizona), the Campus Research Corporation Board Members (the non-profit organization that manages the Tech Park), the Tech Park team, [former] Mayor Jonathon Rothschild, City Manager Michael Ortega, UArizona Senior Administration, and of course time with President Robbins.
Now, I had already founded one of the top parks in Canada, had an amazing CEO position with our trade association but the pull of building a second technology park and applying all the lessons learned and best practices I had gained at the University of Waterloo was too tantalizing not to pursue. Coming from Canada was not an easy task but the UArizona Global office Dana Bleau and team member Jack Sterbis were able to secure all the appropriate visas and paperwork for me to join the University of Arizona team!
DW: Where are you from?
CS: Waterloo, Ontario Canada so I have a H-1B visa sponsored by the University of Arizona, eh? Waterloo is often considered the Silicon Valley of Canada. There is a dynamic community of tech giants like Google, SAP, and Blackberry as well as hundreds of successful startups including two ‘Unicorns’ that were founded in the R T Park at University of Waterloo - Kik & ApplyBoard.
DW: What is it like to be named an influential woman?
CS: It is easy to push yourself as a woman leader when you work for a high caliber administrator such as Dr. Betsy Cantwell, SVP Research Innovation & Impact (RII), she is inspiring, empowering, and I personally have learned so much by observing her leadership in these ‘business unusual’ times.
This recognition as one of Arizona’s most influential women leaders is extremely humbling and such an honor but the kudos belong to the entire Tech Parks Arizona team. Change can energize and they have been very opened-minded since my arrival in January of last year to take on new challenges, explore new areas outside of their historical comfort zone, and take some risks with me that have resulted in high impact to the innovation ecosystem in S. Arizona.
DW: What projects are you currently working on?
CS: The UA Center for Innovation at Oro Valley is paving the way to serve the bioscience entrepreneurial community with construction completed in the late fall 2020 … This new facility will fill a gap in the entrepreneurial ecosystem directly related to supporting scientific research discoveries and translating them into marketable technologies. The incubator will be built near the Ventana Roche Tissue Diagnostics headquarters in Innovation Park as part of a larger effort to grow the innovation ecosystem in a bustling bioscience cluster within the Town of Oro Valley.
UACI was selected by the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) to collaborate in the American-Made Solar Prize as a Power Connector to support its goal to boost US solar manufacturing through innovation... As a Power Connector, UACI attracts, engages and supports new talent thus developing high-quality competitors for the American-Made Challenge (AMC) Solar Prize.
The UA Tech Park at The Bridges has a deal with HSL Properties to develop a Marriott-branded hotel at the new tech park site. The four-story hotel … will be located at the corner of Kino Parkway and Tucson Marketplace Boulevard.
The new AVP of Tech Parks was hired at a pivotal time, new UArizona leadership identified a strategic plan which highlighted innovation and impact as a priority and called on Tech Parks to lead the way. Our leadership at Tech Parks Arizona is laser focused on university-based economic development through the recruitment of new businesses, customized business support, facilitating university connections, and supporting innovation through all stages of development.
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