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Arizona Study Examines Impact of Public Investments in University S&T

August 22, 2003

New university-based research efforts in biodesign, nanotechnology, embedded systems and virtual manufacturing show that Arizona has stepped forward to compete in the knowledge economy, according to a recent study by Morrison Institute for Public Policy, a unit of Arizona State University.

The Institute's 44-page report, Seeds of Prosperity: Public Investment in Science and Technology, uses the research projects that ASU initiated with voter-approved Proposition 301, proceeds from a sales tax, as a lens for understanding the value of science and technology (S&T) research to Arizona's economy. It also introduces "CAT measures" designed to assess the lasting economic value of such research for the state and region. The CAT measures are intended to help assess whether connections were made among ASU researchers and external groups, attention was attracted to ASU's research, and talent was recruited, retained or developed.

The researchers argue, "The CAT measures provide Arizona with a truly original way to evaluate the long-term economic development contribution of public investment in university research." They suggest a variety of indicators to be used for the CAT measures, including:

  • Connections
    • University researchers on boards of companies
    • Private sector participation in university lab work and events
    • Joint presentations by university and private sector
  • Attention
    • University exposure in national, state, and local media
    • Hits on university research web sites
    • Industry recruitment of science and technology students
  • Talent
    • Successful hiring and retention of top research faculty
    • Science and technology grad students attracted and retained
    • Private sector individuals trained

ASU's projects have nearly doubled the state's investment by attracting $14 million in outside grants, according to the report. To determine whether this investment will be a long-term economic development success, Morrison Institute analysts recommend that such research initiatives be regularly and systematically assessed not only on the products they develop and the external funding they generate, but also on the CAT measures.

Seeds of Prosperity is available for download at: http://www.asu.edu/copp/morrison/seedsofprosperity.htm