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GPEC puts together a science and technology strategy

Even when the state was known for copper, cattle and citrus, Arizona has relied on being an innovator to drive its economy.

“Arizona’s economic position has historically been defined by science and technology,” says Steven M. Shope, president of Mesa-based Sandia Research Corporation, “especially if you look back to the 1940s and 1950s, when the state put a wealth of resources into attracting new technologies.”

Those efforts, Shope says, paid off and made Arizona a leader in the electronics, semiconductor, aerospace and defense industries.

“Now, we need more science and technology to transform Arizona into a knowledge economy and lift our productivity and export growth from below national average,” Shope says.

To help make that happen, the Greater Phoenix Economic Council (GPEC) has directed its Innovation Council — which is co chaired by Shope and Todd Hardy, associate vice president of economic affairs for Arizona State University — to study the community’s high-potential assets, look for commercialization opportunities and put together and science and technology strategy that will help drive a knowledge-based economy in Arizona. The backbone of that strategy will be building on the state’s existing strengths.

According to Sethuraman Panchanathan, senior vice president at ASU’s Office of Knowledge Enterprise Development, those strengths include the state’s world-class research universities, research centers and institutes, a large highly trained workforce, a vibrant entrepreneurship ecosystem, a concerted effort on improving business climate in the cities and the state, plans for rapid growth by existing science and technology businesses, and an enhanced quality of life.

“Our best strengths come from the companies already here — established businesses like Intel, Avnet, Boeing and Honeywell,” Shope says. “Arizona also has lower workforce costs and good transportation connectivity to other markets, both of which are attractive for science- or technology-based businesses.”

So how does Arizona tranlate those assets into further expansion and enhancement of the science and technology sectors?

“We’re already world leaders in solar research and development and manufacturing and there is still strong potential for innovation within our aerospace and electronics industries, as well as in healthcare and personalized medicine,” Shope says. “However, we need to fill in the gaps with regards to access to capital, markets and talent in order to realize that potential. GPEC’s Innovation Council is working to develop a strategy that leverages these resources, harnesses new ones and further diversifies our economy into these areas.”

Panchanathan says the key to creating a successful strategy will be, “Convergence of purpose between the various economic development entities in Arizona, securing investments that can be deployed to attract new businesses to Arizona, and creating incentives for attracting local and global businesses to Arizona.”

Already driving Arizona’s electronics sector is Intel, with its recent $5 billion expansion, and companies like Boeing and Honeywell are fueling the aerospace sector. Those three companies are driving innovation within our communities and their local supply chains, Shope points out.

Top develop its science and technology strategy, Shope says says GPEC’s Innovation Council is conducting a deep market analysis to identify long-term opportunities in science and technology, and learning how to target growth from initiatives in other regions. GPEC is building the business case among private leaders to establish focus and build resources around a few select initiatives.

“A well thought-out strategy should include building up each community’s unique assets and driving growth into new markets by establishing centers of excellence around emerging products and technologies,” Shope says. “Increasing funding to the universities for R&D is also critical, as is developing funding and resources for entrepreneurs. Educating the entrepreneur is also an important goal. In particular, R&D funding from federal sources, such as (Small Business Innovation Research) SBIR and (Small Business Technology Transfer Program) STTR, is an ideal mechanism for launching new technologies. However, this funding is becoming increasingly competitive. We need to be sure that Arizona small businesses can be highly competitive in these funding programs.”

Which Common Brands Are Most Sustainable?

As you do your shopping this holiday season, would it help to know exactly which toys, electronics, food and other items are better for the environment? A prominent researcher at the W. P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University is helping to develop a system that will tell retailers, manufacturers, and eventually consumers, about the sustainability of many of the products we buy every day.

Professor Kevin Dooley is research director of The Sustainability Consortium, an impressive group administered by Arizona State University and the University of Arkansas, featuring big-name-members, such as Unilever, BASF, MillerCoors, Mars and Walmart, with combined revenue of more than $1.5 trillion. The consortium is developing criteria that will allow you to easily identify which products are the most sustainable in their categories, based on factors like emissions, labor practices, water usage and waste creation. The consortium’s efforts were recently named among 10 “world-changing ideas” that are “radical enough to alter our lives” by Scientific American, and this year, the consortium’s work really vaulted forward.

“We have now established the critical issues and best areas in which to improve more than 100 types of the most common products — everything from electronics and toys, to food, drinks and personal care items,” says Dooley. “We’re helping businesses focus on the most important sustainability issues and giving them a way to measure and share their progress in making products better. This year, we were able to make rapid progress, thanks to the intense efforts of our staff and the stakeholders involved.”

In addition to big advances in creating these tools for companies to use, the consortium also finalized a huge partnership this year. The Consumer Goods Forum is a commercial trade organization with more than 400 retailers, manufacturers, service providers and others as members worldwide. Working with this group will help the consortium to create a single global framework for sharing information between retailers, manufacturers, suppliers and consumers.

The consortium also announced expansion into China, thanks to a $2 million grant from the Walmart Foundation. The consortium will build relationships with Chinese manufacturers and retailers, exchanging information about best practices. It will also help implement a training program for Chinese factory managers and owners, utilizing regional knowledge about social and environmental issues. In other global efforts, the consortium hosted visits and events in Chile and Japan this year, and it’s strengthening ties with a university in Europe.

Dooley says making products more sustainable is getting even more important, as the number of middle-class consumers worldwide keeps growing. We’re creating and consuming more goods — using more energy and disposing of more waste in the process.

“It’s vital to show companies that sustainability and profits aren’t mutually exclusive,” says Dooley. “Investing in sustainability can actually help boost a firm’s bottom line. Sustainability efforts involve streamlining processes, using less energy and creating less packaging. All of this can help save both money and the environment.”

Dooley adds that 40 to 50 percent of environmental impacts can be traced to the life cycle of consumer products sold in retail stores. Therefore, making better choices about which products we buy and how those products are manufactured are truly significant. Dooley notes that some criteria developed by The Sustainability Consortium are already influencing major companies.

“For example, Walmart now requires all suppliers of laptop computers to ship those computers with energy-saving settings as the default,” says Dooley. “Other retailers are already using the consortium’s criteria to choose areas in which they can ask their suppliers to improve. Hopefully, we’re helping many companies consider more sustainability aspects when they’re selecting suppliers and drawing up contracts.”

Dooley teaches sustainability in the W. P. Carey School of Business’ supply chain management programs, consistently ranked Top 10 nationwide. He points out the pioneering way The Sustainability Consortium is integrating the efforts of members across academia, government, private companies and non-governmental organizations. The group is conducting practical research that can affect mainstream consumers around the world.

“The current focus of the consortium is to make the existing system of creating and using products as efficient as possible,” says Dooley. “As industry capabilities mature, we and others will also start looking at how we can consume less, reuse more, change products to services, and make items last longer overall.”

In 2013, the consortium will start working on criteria for clothing, footwear, textiles and many different durable goods like bicycles and hardware. To learn more about The Sustainability Consortium’s efforts, visit http://www.sustainabilityconsortium.org/.

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Chandler and Mesa ranked among Top 10 tech hotbeds

To find the city where technology startup businesses are thickest on the ground, look no further than the Valley. Both Chandler and Mesa rank among the Top 10 for cities with the most tech startups — computers, software, medical devices and electronics — per capita.

That is one of the striking findings of a ranking of U.S. cities by technology startups per capita. Another is that none of the Top 10 tech startup hotbeds lies east of the Mississippi River. Silicon Valley boasts three, Southern California has another and the rest scatter across Texas, Arizona, Nevada and Washington.

The data and analysis came from SizeUp, a San Francisco–based provider of free business intelligence for small and mid-sized businesses. SizeUp CEO and cofounder Anatalio Ubalde sifted through millions of records from a plethora of sources to build it. He and his team identified companies less than five years old in the fields of computers, software, medical devices and electronics that were located in the top 100 cities by population.

Here are the top 10 cities for the most tech startups and the number of startups they have per 100,000 population:

1. Fremont, CA, 21.3
2. San Jose, CA, 10.1
3. Irving, TX, 6.5
4. Chandler, AZ, 5.1
5. Austin, TX, 4.5
6. Paradise, NV, 3.9
7. Anaheim, CA, 3.8
8. Mesa, AZ, 3.7
9. Seattle, WA, 3.5
10. Santa Ana, CA, 3.3