Science Foundation Arizona expanding partnership with state universities

Science Foundation Arizona (SFAz), a nonprofit organization that pursues grants and private financial contributions to fund university-level research, has announced it is “positioning its future at Arizona State University” and relocating to ASU’s SkySong facility under a new name: SFAz@ASU.

According to William Harris, CEO of SFAz, the organization has partnered with Arizona’s public universities for over a decade to help connect them with industry and advance new research initiatives.

Now, along with an advisory council of vice presidents of research from ASU, University of Arizona and Northern Arizona University, the organization will work to “identify potential areas of research collaboration that will benefit the state as a whole,” according to a press release.

“We wanted to find new ways to be a catalyst or a facilitator, to bring the universities together in appropriate ways, to tackle some really big problems in medicine, cybersecurity and big data,” said William Harris, CEO of SFAz.

The expanded partnership is still in the early stages of development, Harris said, so there’s no information available yet about how students could be involved. Harris said board members will meet in September to discuss more details, but that initial research will likely be in health care technology and cybersecurity.

At this stage, it really is the first process of a new entity that’s going to help facilitate and advance the universities in this state every step of the way,” he said.

“This new alliance with SFAz represents an opportunity to continue building momentum in prominent areas of scientific research and education,” said Sethuraman Panchanathan, executive vice president of Knowledge Enterprise and chief research and innovation officer at ASU, in a statement. 

Harris said Arizona is becoming a place “where you can now tackle problems that you might not have been able to tackle a few years ago.” He said while the program could take two or three years to fully develop, SFAz@ASU hopes to launch the initial phase of the partnership sometime this fall.

“Bringing together some of the best researchers in the world and partnering with industry will create a dynamic that allows us to make significant economic and societal impact,” said Panchanathan, who also serves as Gov. Doug Ducey’s senior advisor for science and technology.

Science Foundation Arizona began in 2006 “with the aim of diversifying Arizona’s economy by connecting industry’s needs with university research while ensuring that the educational system develops a workforce fit for the 21st century,” according to a statement by the organization.

Science Foundation Arizona says it has awarded over 150 grants totaling over $110 million since 2007, which have “led to the creation of 1,865 jobs.”

Despite the close partnership with universities, Science Foundation Arizona will remain an independent 501c(3) organization.

Nick Serpa

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