Research parks increasing technology and innovation in Arkansas

Research parks within Arkansas are the first port of call for the Little Rock Chamber of Commerce, to gauge the current ecosystem within the state. Jay Chesshir from theChamber of Commerce, stated that the Chamber of Commerce is attempting to transform the state to become a leader in the fields of technology and innovation.

The Arkansas Research and Technology Park (ARTP) adjacent to the University of Arkansas, and the Arkansas Bio science Innovation and Commercial Center at Arkansas State University are the two current science parks within the state; with a new park under construction within central Arkansas.

The ARTP used innovative techniques to nurture technology-intensive companies. It attempted to stimulate the formation of a collaborative community of companies, together with university faculty and students at Fayetteville, linked interdependently around a set of core R&D research competencies at the university.

 Growing current expertise within research parks

In a highly competitive industry, the ARTP is an example of a community that has begun to create the next generation of electronic and photonic devices for biotechnology and related areas. These areas include transportation and logistics, in which Arkansas is a leader; materials and manufacturing; database software; telecommunications; and applied sustainability. Those are areas in which the ARTP is successful in terms of grants attracted and progress toward becoming a center of excellence.

 The state’s primary knowledge community

A major advantage for the ARTP is its location in northwest Arkansas, near the main university campus. As the state’s primary knowledge community, the Fayetteville area provided valuable fuel for the innovation and technology development activities of the ARTP. Two affiliates had received the prestigious Frost and Sullivan Award for excellence in technology, and another affiliate won the Tibbetts Award for the most innovative small business. Earlier in the year, another affiliate won an R&D 100 award, which cites Washington County as one of the most innovative in the country. ARTP affiliates, he said, continue to advance the frontier of product development in many specialty areas.

In central Arkansas, a group had engaged a consultant to review activities at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences and the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. The question they asked was: How can we take the research and innovation that is already here and make it stronger? For so long, he said, the state had suffered from brain drain as its best and brightest young scientists, engineers, and medical researchers sought opportunities elsewhere. How, they asked, could the region take advantage of local innovative talent and turn it into jobs for the area and the state as a whole.

In 2007, this effort was rewarded when the General Assembly voted to create a research park authority, a legislative opportunity that would permit anyone in the state to create a research park and design it for sustainability. That effort had moved forward, he said, and at the end of the month, the authority was scheduled to be finalized with the city of Little Rock and its partners in central Arkansas, with the goal of beginning construction by 2012.

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