Economic Impact of University Research

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Arizona Board of Regents Chairman Rick Myers discusses the $1 billion economic impact research at ASU, UofA and NAU has on Arizona’s economy.

Steve Goldstein: Research conducted by ASU, NAU and the U of A is making a huge contribution to Arizona's economic growth. It's a billion dollar boost to the state's economy, according to a new report from the Arizona board of regents. Here to talk about it is the chairman of the board, regent Rick Myers. Rick, welcome. Good to have you. Tell us how important research is on a general level to Arizona?

Rick Myers: Research is important to our competitiveness as a state. You know, we live in such a competitive world and when you look at our three great research universities, last year, we did About $1 billion of sponsored research. That's federal money coming here. It's money from companies. It's money from foundations. But it's coming to the people we have here in Arizona to sponsor creating new ideas.

Steve Goldstein: And how is that doing based the goals of the regents -- that the regents have set?

Rick Myers: We're really right at our goal right now. Our intent at 2020 is to get that number up to $2 billion a year. That's quite a number to climb we're right on track. We're hiring the right people. The researchers we have are the people we're proud of in this atate.
Steve Goldstein: How does research fit in the overall mission of the three Universities?

Rick Myers: Research has three great missions, research discoveries. It's education. The fact we're doing discovery, though, means that the education that we're providing to our students is leading edge. We have the newest knowledge that's out there. The third is service. So discovery, education and service. And research is a part of all of that.

Steve Goldstein: As far as research goes, has Arizona been lagging and now we're catching up and doing quite well in catching up or no?

Rick Myers: We've had three strong universities, the University of Arizona is one of the top 20 public research institutions in then Nation. Arizona State University is the fastest-growing research university in the nation. And NAU has its own niche. NAU is doing research in forests and other areas that's very important to the future of our state.

Steve Goldstein: What sort of reputation do the universities have across the Country? How's that changing?

Rick Myers: Our university reputations are excellent. They're continuing to get better. They're getting better because we're out there using our knowledge and working with people across the country and across the world on very important problems.

Steve Goldstein: well, one in particular, u of a specialized for years in Research in our skies. That's had a huge impact recently as well?

Rick Myers: exactly. U of A has strength in optical sciences. U of A got an $800 million grant from NASA to bring material back. Arizona State University is working on flexible displays with the military. They're working with DARPA on ways to prevent our military from having to worry about chemical warfare and biological warfare. We're involved in energy. We're involved in defense. We're involved in health. We're involved in, as I said, the major areas that are important to us as humans.

Steve Goldstein: How important is it for the three universities, even as they're competing a little bit with each other, to have some Sort of synergy?

Rick Myers: It's an interesting thing. We certainly compete in sports. We compete in terms of trying to do the best we absolutely can be, but everyone recognizes we're part of Arizona, that we're Here in Arizona and that it's our job to make Arizona a better place in the future.

Steve Goldstein: What are you excited about going forward? If we can go short-term versus long-term, how'd this long-term goal differ from the short-term goal?

Rick Myers: The long-term goals are to be world-class, more world-class than we are today. Short term it means we need to be making decisions that will get us there. It's one thing to say 2020. Well, that's eight years away. Things we're doing today are what will drive what is happening in 2020 and we need to be making the right investments, even in this tough economic time.

Steve Goldstein: Rick, there's been some critics that have wonders -- and ASU Branched out whether it's ASU poly tech or other examples as well -- whether the three universities need to have different missions to some extent. Is there a good amount of overlap? Is there too much overlap?

Rick Myers: I think it's a very healthy environment right now. I think it's easy to say that and say, well, if one is doing it, why does the other have to do it, too? Well, some states are doing things. Does that mean Arizona doesn't have to do it, right? Things that are important need to be done by as many people. The innovation and entrepreneurship, you don't know where it's going to come from. Having three universities here in Arizona each striving to achieve in those areas is very important. I think the worry about overlap is really an artificial concern.

Steve Goldstein: When you hear public-private partnership between the universities and private businesses, what do you think of?

Rick Myers: That's critical. The federal budget isn't growing as it has in the past. If we're going to grow that research engine, a lot of that is going To come from sponsored research from the private sector from companies working with our universities to figure out how to solve problems, how to build better products, how to serve customers better.

Steve Goldstein: And what about the state level? There's been some hard times at the legislature in terms of trying to get our budget balanced, how do you feel about funding for universities and that going forward?

Rick Myers: Well, you know, this year, the budget did go up for both ASU, U of A and NAU. We're very happy about the governor's support and the support of the legislature. We've put in place something now we call performance funding. The regents put in place these goals for 2020. Some very clear metrics that need to be achieved were put in Place. The performance funding looks at outcomes it looks at the Students we're graduating. The students we're graduating in the stem fields, engineering, you know, fields that create jobs and create companies it looks at the research we're doing and it will provide funding in the future for the universities based our accomplishments, not based our input it means we need to do an even better job of taking the people of Arizona through the universities, getting them out the back end and making a stronger place.

Steve Goldstein: Rick, we're down to about a minute left. I did want to ask you about the importance of university presidents to the overall mission and where U of A's new President which started today, Ann Weaver Hart.

Rick Myers: We're so lucky to have her here in Arizona. Ann Weaver Hart was president at Temple University and president at New Hampshire. She's got a strong understanding of the importance of strong universities to their state and what that means and she'll be a great part of the team.

Steve Goldstein: Very briefly, does she have a big challenge going from the private university to a public university?

Rick Myers: Temple is half and half the way they're set up in Pennsylvania. No, she's ready for this. She's -- Temple is the same size as the University of Arizona. Not as much research but they have a medical school, a lot of the same complexities. She's ready for the challenge.

Steve Goldstein: Rick Myers, thank you so much.

Rick Myers - Chairman,Arizona Board of Regents

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