Public and private support for applied research drives innovation in Arizona

Arizona has the potential to become a leader in innovation and a significant contributor to the global economy. To achieve this goal, we must prioritize the correct processes. By leveraging the applied research process, we can create high-paying jobs, increase economic growth, improve quality of life, and enhance competition in the global marketplace.

Applied research is a vital part of the innovation process, as it leads to the development of new products, services and procedures. And applied research is a type of research that is focused on solving real-world problems. Typically, applied research involves the use of the scientific method and techniques, such as experimentation and data analysis. The results of applied research are often used to inform policy decisions, improve products and services, and advance scientific knowledge.

ASU, Empire Southwest, GoX Labs
Chris Zaharis

Arizona has been making substantial strides in applied research over the years with the help of organizations such as the Partnership for Economic Innovation (PEI), which has been able to strategically connect innovators with industry and public funding to target specific research areas such as wearable technology and blockchain. This approach of organizing public and private support for applied research in Arizona has allowed many growing industries, such as healthcare, technology, and more to thrive. Here are some of the targeted benefits we can see by prioritizing investment in applied research:

Catalyzing growth in emerging industries
Applied research involves the application of scientific principles and techniques to solve practical problems faced by businesses and industries. One example of an industry that has benefited from applied research methods is healthcare. The WearTech Center, founded by PEI and based in Phoenix, is partnering with local companies and researchers to develop wearable technology that helps healthcare providers monitor their patients remotely. Wearable technology has the potential to improve patient outcomes, reduce healthcare costs, and provide healthcare providers with valuable data to develop better treatment plans. A number of industries, from finance to healthcare, to technology, benefit from blockchain. Arizona Blockchain Applied Research Center leverages emerging blockchain research to create usable products for the global marketplace.

ASU, GoX Labs
Joe Hitt

High-paying jobs and economic growth
One of the most substantial benefits of backing the applied research strategy is the accelerated creation of high-paying jobs in the local economy. According to a report by the National Science Foundation (NSF), companies that invest in research and development tend to pay their employees more than companies that do not. This leads to another benefit of public and private support for applied research: increased economic growth. Companies that engage in research and development are more likely to innovate, which can lead to the creation of new products, services and processes. Public support of specific applied research projects creates a flywheel effect, where companies have the support to verify their research and create more jobs quickly. This will drive economic growth in Arizona and create new opportunities for local entrepreneurs and small businesses.

ASU, applied research
Dr. Tom Sugar

Market competitiveness
Another benefit of public and private support for applied research is enhanced competitiveness in the global marketplace. Companies that engage in research and development are more likely to develop innovative products, giving them an edge in the worldwide market. One way that companies can do so is by partnering with researchers from Arizona’s private and public universities. For example, Grand Canyon University has received funding from wearable technology funds. There is private money that is used to match these grants given to universities. They can provide expertise and resources to accelerate the development and commercialization of new technologies. This will drive innovation in Arizona and lead to the creation of new industries and jobs.

Funding obstacles, like the “valley of death” – the gap between the initial funding of a startup and the point where the company becomes profitable, can be a significant challenge for companies engaged in research and development. Applied research centers can help companies avoid this valley of death by providing access to funding, technical expertise, testing, validation, networking and collaboration.

Improved quality of life
Developing new technologies and solutions can lead to improvements in healthcare, transportation, energy and more. This can make life easier, more affordable, and more enjoyable for Arizona residents. For example, GoX Labs is developing promising new exoskeleton technology in collaboration with public and private partners, including Arizona State University, Augspurger Komm Engineering and Phoenix Robotics Group. Together, they are striving to make workplaces safer for millions of people across many industries, as the wearable exoskeleton technology called PhenEx is designed to help workers squat and lift heavy loads promoting overall worker health and reducing the potential for workplace injuries. With support from the WearTech Applied Research Center, GoX Labs has accelerated validation of its technology and testing of the technology in real-world environments. This accelerated process aims to make this technology commercially available more quickly to start immediately improving the quality of life for many workers.

More work to be done
Applied research is showing promising results in driving continued innovation in Arizona. However, for many who are reading this article, this may be the first time they are hearing of this type of research. We would like to thank the Arizona legislators for their previous support of our work in establishing applied research centers and advancing innovation in our state. These are only the initial steps, though, as we can do so much more with the continued support of applied research from both the private and public sectors.

Continued legislative appropriation means Arizona can expand upon the work already done to drive innovation in critical industries, create high-paying jobs and position itself as a leader in the global marketplace. With the help of organizations like PEI and continued public and private support, Arizona can continue to thrive in the future.

Chris Zaharis is executive vice-president of Empire Southwest; Joe Hitt is CEO of GoX Labs and Dr. Tom Sugar is Associate Dean of ASU Barrett Honors College.



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