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Finding the Perfect Fit: Innovation Zones at ASU

Collaborations between universities and businesses are nothing new. Neither are companies and academia joining hands on employee training or co-created curricula. However, what the Innovation Zones at Arizona State University have achieved borders on the remarkable. Scratch that: it is remarkable.

Innovation Zones at ASU are comprised of six distinct Greater Phoenix locations that offer companies of all sizes, from Fortune 500 to startups, the opportunity to partner with Arizona State University, a global leader in innovation.

“ASU is actively reimagining the role of universities embedded in their surrounding communities by driving research, education, and workforce and economic development,” said Sethuraman Panchanathan, executive vice president of the Knowledge Enterprise and chief research and innovation officer at ASU. “We understand there is no one-size-fits-all approach to designing spaces where companies can thrive, grow and flourish. Our unique approach to partnering with corporates is to work in a symbiotic manner to ensure that we find the perfect fit.”

“We create our Innovation Zones for companies to come in, interface and collaborate with our students, faculty, and researchers, and grow their businesses,” Managing Director Todd Hardy added. “We expose students to companies as a benefit of being part of the ASU ecosystem. You might have your future employees right there, ready to work with you.”

ASU is a mighty force in Greater Phoenix, the nation’s fastest-growing business and technology region. The student body stands at more than 110,000 on-campus and online students, making ASU the nation’s largest university. It has also been named the nation’s most innovative school four years in a row by U.S. News & World Report, ranking above MIT and Stanford. Nearly 90 percent of ASU graduates receive job offers within 90 days of graduation.

ASU feeds Greater Phoenix’s collaboration with incoming and homegrown businesses. The Innovation Zones spread across six different locations in the valley on land owned by the state or city. ASU does not develop them, but is deeply involved in every phase. Space may be devoted to offices and manufacturing, university programs and research, and other commercial and community services.

“The relationships we’re building give corporate partners opportunities and help students,” Hardy said. “They work on research projects and learn about the related industry before they graduate, receive internships, and companies can ‘test-drive’ students before hiring them. Our graduates enter the workforce with real-world experience.”

A Snapshot Look at the Innovation Zones

SkySong, The ASU Scottsdale Innovation Center

SkySong started on its Scottsdale location in 2008 with two buildings totaling 300,000 sq. ft. In August 2019, they opened their fifth office building, SkySong 5. Space now totals over 800,000 sq. ft., on the way to 1.2 million sq. ft. when the project is completed. Tenants include Starbucks, Canon, Ticketmaster, CenturyLink, Workiva, and many more. SkySong is also home to the ASU Smart City Cloud Innovation Center, powered by Amazon Web Services, which uses cloud computing, artificial intelligence, and machine learning to address regional challenges. Ten other ASU centers and units, including ASU’s entrepreneurial and online education programs, add vibrancy to the ecosystem.

That’s not all. SkySong is a jewel of mixed-use planning, boasting a 325-unit apartment complex, multiple restaurants, and the newly opened Element by Westin – an edgy, innovative hotel. “SkySong is projected to have an economic impact of more than $30 billion over the next 30 years,” Hardy said.

Novus Innovation Corridor

Think of a smart city immersed in an academic, research, and business think-and-act tank. “I like to call it ‘SkySong Times Ten,’” Hardy says. Novus occupies a prime location in the middle of ASU’s biggest campus in Tempe. State Farm Insurance was the first arrival, building a 2 million sq. ft. campus for 7,000 employees. Eventually, Hardy said, the development will include more than 10 million sq. ft. of urban mixed-use opportunities.

The Arizona Health Solutions Corridor

The Arizona Health Solutions Corridor is a leading biomedical discovery hub in North Phoenix. “We have a longstanding, 15-year relationship with Mayo Clinic that is helping us advance academic and clinical collaborations in biotechnology, medical innovation, and similar industries,” Hardy explained. “The upcoming Health Futures Center within the Corridor will feature the Mayo Clinic-ASU MedTech Accelerator, research labs, nursing programs, and an innovative education ecosystem.”

ASU Research Park

The business, research, and recreation park, complete with three artificial lakes, has been home to various corporates in the last 30 years. GoDaddy, Fox Broadcasting, Iridium Communications, and ViaSat, Inc. are among the more than 50 major firms in place.

ASU Polytechnic Campus

On the east side of Phoenix lies the ASU Polytechnic campus, established for applied engineering, advanced manufacturing and robotics, wearables, and alternative fuel technologies.

ASU West Campus

The campus lies in the heart of the West Valley’s distribution and logistics hub. It blends liberal arts education with 21st-century workforce preparation in collaboration with private industry.

“This model and portfolio fits perfectly within the unique culture of ASU,” Hardy said. “Its diversity allows all sectors to be represented to maximize opportunities for knowledge creation and employment of our students.”

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May 5, 2020
By Robert Yehling

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