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Nearly $1 Billion Infused into Arizona’s Economy from Research at Arizona’s Public Universities Last Year

Nearly $1 billion infused into Arizona’s economy from research at Arizona’s Public Universities last year.

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Nearly $1 billion infused into Arizona’s economy from research at Arizona’s Public Universities last year

(Phoenix, Ariz.) – Last year, nearly $1 billion was infused into Arizona’s economy as a result of research at Arizona’s public universities, according to the recently released Arizona Board of Regents 2011 research report. The report details research expenditures as well as the economic, social and scholarly impact that results from research in the Arizona University System, indicating a significant positive impact on the state through new jobs, knowledge and dollars reinvested in the community.

“Research at Arizona State University, Northern Arizona University and the University of Arizona provides a tremendous benefit to our community and the world around us,” said Regent Rick Myers, chair of the Arizona Board of Regents. “Research leads not only to transformational discoveries that directly benefit the people of this state and beyond, but it generates jobs, facilitates partnerships, reinvests dollars into the community, attracts top faculty talent, and makes the undergraduate learning experience more rich through instruction and hands-on learning with elite faculty. Research at our universities is a very complex but extremely successful enterprise and its international reputation is a point of pride for our state.”

Last year, the Board of Regents adopted a series of performance metrics to manage and measure university and system productivity and progress in four key areas, including research excellence. Research metrics measure progress in total research expenditures, number of doctoral degrees awarded, number of invention disclosures transacted, number of patents issued, intellectual property income and national public research university ranking. In fiscal year 2011, the research enterprise met or exceeded the enterprise goals in invention disclosures, U.S. patents issued, intellectual property income, and start-up companies. Research expenditures fell just short of reaching the 2011 goal of $1,009.3 billion by $12.7 million. The universities are implementing measures to ensure the 2012 goal of $1,045.6 billion is met.

Through research activity at the universities, millions of dollars are reinvested annually into the community. In 2011, Arizona’s public universities generated nearly $1 billion in research expenditures, dollars that become purchases and lead to employment within Arizona. The following table indicates the projected versus actual outcomes for the research metrics.

FY2011 Projected Vs. Actual Research Metrics at Arizona University System

  Research Expenditures (in millions) Invention Disclosures U.S. Patents Issued Intellectual Property Income (in millions) Startup Companies Doctoral Degrees Conferred
Projected $1,009.3 327 32 $3.7 17 1,438
Actual $996.6 332 37 $3.8 18 1,453

Much of the innovation that improves people’s lives springs from university research and Arizona’s public universities are critical incubators for such innovative research and activity. Stories of university research and its impact on the state and global community were featured in a video, “Exploring Challenges, Discovering Solutions,” that was presented at the Regents’ board meeting. Following are links to additional current research programs taking place at Arizona’s public universities:

  • Super Spider Silk: Arizona State University chemists are studying the molecular structure of spider silk in an effort to produce materials ranging from bulletproof vests to artificial tendons. They also want to mimic spiders’ eco-friendly methods in the process.
  • Genetic tracking techniques will help prevent future public health disease outbreak challenges: At Northern Arizona University, innovative genetic tracking techniques pioneered while assisting the FBI during the 2001 anthrax letter forensic investigation coupled with today’s greatly diminished costs for whole genome sequencing make it possible to apply this technology to new and critical public health challenges such as identifying the source of the 2010 cholera outbreak in Haiti that killed more than 3,000 people.
  • At the UA, researchers are exploring new frontiers in planetary sciences: Last year, NASA selected the University of Arizona to lead the groundbreaking $800 million OSIRIS-REx mission to return samples of material from a near-Earth asteroid. Asteroid 1999 RQ36 is of particular interest to scientists because it will return samples of pristine organic material that scientists think may have seeded the sterile early Earth with the building blocks that led to life. It will also provide the knowledge that will guide scientists in deflecting the asteroid from colliding with Earth.

Increasing the research capabilities and performance of the Arizona University System to a level of competitive prominence with peer rankings of top American research universities is a significant part of the regents’ overarching goal to contribute to the vitality of Arizona’s future. The Enterprise Executive Committee, comprised of the system and university presidents, is charged with implementing strategies to reach the research metrics by the year 2020.

Research ranking facts:

  • The University of Arizona ranks in the top 20 of public research universities.
  • Among U.S. universities with research portfolios exceeding $100 million in research expenditures, Arizona State University was the fastest growing research enterprise over the last five years.
  • Northern Arizona University has the highest level of research funding for biological sciences of any institution in its peer group, and has dramatically increased its federal research funding over the past four years.