AZ Technology & Innovation: Innovation Awards

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The Governor’s Celebration of Innovation awards were recently handed out. The annual gala where the awards are given is held by the Arizona Technology Council in partnership with the Arizona Commerce Authority. Technology leaders and innovators from companies and schools across the state are honored. Arizona Technology Council President and CEO Steve Zylstra will talk about the winners.

Ted Simons: The governor's celebration of innovation awards were recently handed out honoring technology and innovation leaders from around the state in various categories with companies, academics and students receiving honors. The gala is held by the Arizona technology council in partnership with the Arizona commerce authority. For more, I spoke with Steven Zylstra, president an CEO of the Arizona technology council. Thanks for joining us.
Steven Zylstra: It's a pleasure to be here.
Ted Simons: The Governor celebration of innovation awards. What is this?
Steven Zylstra: It's a celebration of technological innovation. In its current form it's been going on nine years now. It was actually started in the '80s as innovator of the year awards but under Janet Napolitano the Tech council collaborated with her and amped it up and called it the governor's celebration of innovation. It focuses on inventors, scientists, engineers who are contributing significantly to developing products and technologies that change our lives.
Ted Simons: what would make an exceptional company or an exceptional individual?
Steven Zylstra: Well, what we're looking for is really revolutionary concepts, either technological concepts or business concepts, not just incremental improvements. We have a group of judges that are scientists, engineers, technologists, even investors who are good at judging the quality of the science and technology in these innovations. So we're looking for something very, very innovative.
Ted Simons: let's talk about some of the award winners. The pioneering award went to I.O., what is I.O.?
Steven Zylstra: It's a Data center. In addition to being a traditional data center they have developed some very extraordinarily innovative mechanisms for providing data center services through modular systems, essentially a data center in a box. They build these things and can distribute them wherever they need to go around the country.
Ted Simons: And again, exponential leap regarding what was there before.
Steven Zylstra: absolutely.
Ted Simons: Green innovator of the year is solar zone.
Steven Zylstra: The U of A has developed a leading facility in Tucson bringing together academics, businesses, solar providers of all kinds. If you will, a state-of-the-art facility to test, to experiment, to establish one of the finest solar areas in the country.
Ted Simons: when it comes to science and technology the university has really taken a leading part.
Steven Zylstra: they are. All three of the state universities are very much engaged.
Ted Simons: Start-up innovator of the year, health-TEL.
Steven Zylstra: Yes. This is a company that is in the health care business.
Ted Simons: I didn't want to throw you -- when I see imuno signaturing diagnostics, that's heavy stuff.
Steven Zylstra: It's heavy stuff. What you'll find is among all of our award winners sometimes you've never even seen the words that define their innovations but I can assure you they are very innovative in their realm.
Ted Simons: Small country innovator of the year, cell trust, secures communications?
Steven Zylstra: It's one of the international leaders in securing text communications over cellphones. As you know, we're concerned about people listening into our text messages and they provide encryption that prevents that.
Ted Simons: The large company innovator of the year is ENG house, sounds like an all encompassing customer relationship --
Steven Zylstra: It's a customer relationship management system with all the bells and whistles. Ways to communicate with your customers, ways to service your customers. To stay in touch with your customers in all ways.
Ted Simons: again, this is a leap --
Steven Zylstra: It's a state-of-the-art product.
Ted Simons: indeed. As far as Academia the innovator of the year goes to ASU. The life sciences operation. This molecular motor that helps detect diseases?
Steven Zylstra: It uses nanotechnology. As it suggests, it uses the elements at the molecular level to create a motor that is able to detect disease. Very interesting.
Ted Simons: that's fantastic. Chairman of the year award goes Steve Phillips of Avnet.
Steven Zylstra: it's an award the chairman of the board of the Tech council makes this selection based on someone who has contributed in a profound way to supporting the Arizona technology community and the Arizona technology council. Steve Phillips was chairman of the board of Arizona Tech council for three years and we had some great accomplishments under his leadership. It's well deserved.
Ted Simons: The lifetime achievement award was also honored as well.
Steven Zylstra: Gary tooker, the former president and CEO of Motorola, won the lifetime achievement award, an award given to someone who has met the test of time, has contributed significantly to the technology community over many decades. Gary tooker certainly meets that requirement.
Ted Simons: So people are hearing about this, Arizona technology council, governor's celebration of innovation awards, how the chairman had support of the council for so long, what is the technology council?
Steven Zylstra: We're a statewide organization, a trade association that represents technology companies across Arizona. We have members from Sierra Vista to Flagstaff. All the traditional tech names, Intel, Avnet, Boeing, Microsoft, micro age are all members. 85% of our members have less than 100 employees. It's everything from start-up, early stage companies to multi-national.
Ted Simons: are we seeing more of those companies in Arizona? How are we doing?
Steven Zylstra: I have been around this town since 1984, and I would say that we have the richest innovation eco-system that we have ever had. There's a lot of things happening. Arizona commerce authority, who was our partner putting on the governor's celebration innovation has an innovation challenge providing funding support to early stage Tech companies. We're in the best shape we have ever been in as a state.
Ted Simons: are we keeping up with other regions? They are improving too.
Steven Zylstra: I would say that there are a number of areas where we're exemplar in certain technology areas. There are other areas where we are still lagging behind. I would say we're probably nationally sort of in the middle of the Pack when it comes to the Tech sector, but we're roaring ahead.
Ted Simons: what can be done to get us roaring more?
Steven Zylstra: One of the most important things we need to do as a state is develop a source of innovation capital. Surprisingly, all the states that surround us, Utah, New Mexico, Colorado, have more venture capital and moraine gel capital to invest in early stage Tech companies. Arizona is behind.
Ted Simons: why is that? Regardless of the business, it seems like venture capital in Arizona is not where it should be. Why is that?
Steven Zylstra: I believe it's in part due to our culture. When our economy is driven by our has been driven by not agriculture, that was a long time ago, but real estate development. As a consequence of that when people are making money, your brother, uncle, your neighbor in real estate, why would you invest in something crazy like technology that as you suggested is hard to even pronounce some of the words, when you can invest in something tangible? I think the recent economic downturn we saw may be changing that somewhat and we may have an opportunity here, an opening if you will.
Ted Simons: congratulations on the awards G. to see you again. We got a big thing coming up next spring?
Steven Zylstra: Yes. We have the Intel international science and engineering fair coming next May. We'll have 1600 of the smartest kids in the world in stem education in Phoenix.
Ted Simons: well, I'll try to keep my distance. We'll have you on talking more about it. Good to see you again.
Steven Zylstra: you too. Thank you.
Ted Simons: that is it for now. I'm Ted Simons. You have a great evening.

Steve Zylstra:President and CEO, Arizona Technology Council;

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