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Ted Simons: ASU and the Greater Phoenix Economic Council were recently awarded a grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce to accelerate local job creation by developing an Innovation and Commercialization Center for Advanced Manufacturing in the Phoenix area. GPEC President and CEO Barry Broome and Sethuraman "Panch" Panchanathan, Senior Vice President of ASU’s Office of Knowledge Enterprise Development, both joining me now to discuss the grant and this planned manufacturing center. Good to have you both here.
Sethuraman “Panch” Panchanathan: Thank you for having us.
Ted Simons: Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership. Talk to me about this grant.
Barry Broome: The federal government is trying to promote an interface between industry and universities. That's been a big objective of GPEC over the last two years, to create the interface between ASU's technical capabilities, their engineering school, polytechnic, other assets, into the economy. This specifically will focus on building capabilities. We have over 3,000 manufacturers in the valley, not just Intel, Boeing and Honeywell, but build on the ability to create new technologies, like sensor technologies and an improved deliverable of talents. Hopefully, build and create new commercial ideas among the manufacturing sector to keep them current and to move them to an advanced state. We're already of the top 100 metros we're the 16th most advanced manufacturing market in the United States today.
Ted Simons: Are we talking mostly high-tech here or all kinds of manufacturing?
Sethuraman “Panch” Panchanathan: Primarily high-tech because if you look at our history, we have been very good in media symmetric manufacturing, manufacturing in the aerospace defense area, position control intimidation, etc. If you look at how we position ourselves using assets we already have in the region and how do you now take it to the next level. I'll give you one example. At ASU, we have been advancing this concept of flexible electronics with our flexible displacer using the investments already made for designing situational awareness displace for soldiers in the battlefield. So this is a technology that we are very advanced in in this region and we can be a national or global leader in this area. So that is an advanced manufacturing concept which can be used in health applications and energy applications, things of that nature where we can be a global leader.
Ted Simons: We have those ideas out there, the flexible display. We’ve actually done stories on that. That’s been out there for a while. $170,000 here. What does that pay for?
Barry Broome: It pays to build the plan. The center will be a public-private partnership between the GPEC and ASU to focus on the development of new technologies. It will be a commercialization center. There will be a network of manufacturers that will be able to go someplace to have their products tested from a prototyping standpoint but also at ASU we'll be able to build intellectual property strategies and technology platforms for these companies, help these companies understand how to develop their new ideas but also capture them so they can protect those ideas, take them to the marketplace and grow their business.
Ted Simons: Do you know where this is going to be located? Have you gotten that far along in the plan yet?
Barry Broome: We don’t. We do have a published criteria so when this gets rolled out, there will be a published criteria on how to site the center. Right now the most important thing for us is to be able to start to put an aggressive move on creating more innovation inside this manufacturing base. Semiconductor has gone from nearly 100,000 jobs to 19,000 jobs in the valley. We have sequestration which continues to put very serious threats on our aerospace defense base. From an economic perspective, in the last 25 years about nine percent of our growth has been in the advanced manufacturing sector. Eighty-five percent of our job growth is in consumption. That is a serious sustainability problem we have to take more aggressive actions to address.
Ted Simons: What are you hearing from start-ups, folks in the high-tech manufacturing arena? What do they need?
Sethuraman “Panch” Panchanathan: For example if you look at one of the needs that they have is how do you take an idea and prototype it in the fastest possible manner. We have now come up with this concept of a maker central area in Chandler, for example. One example of how you can have people who want to try their ideas come and use some of the facilities that we have to be able to quickly turn that idea into a product and see how the marketplace reacts to that kind of product. So we have multiple levels of engagement at the university. One is how do you get students trained in this new knowledge economy, in these ideas of advanced manufacturing? How do you make students prepare for that future? That's one thing. How do you take the assets of the university in terms of the intellectual break that we have got, as well as the depth in areas like electronics and supply chain, and so on, how do you connect it to this advanced manufacturing economy and make it something that the university can be a very strong partner in in the region?
Ted Simons: Is there a model out there that you're looking at or is this kind of starting ground up and seeing where we go from here?
Barry Broome: It's a long time ago, but there was a group called CAMP, which was a Cleveland Area Manufacturing Program, connected to Case Western Reserve, which is a very competent engineering school. It was doing everything from helping manufacturers move the lean process as well as developing new technologies. I thought it was a very successful program and it was modeled throughout the Midwest. That gives us a feel I think for what this center could look like.
Ted Simons: Is this a way, you mentioned that we're seeing some problems in the economy in a wide variety of ways, is this a way, though, for Arizona to lead or is it a way for to us play catch-up?
Barry Broome: Well, you know, we're kind of in both spots. There's still a tremendous amount of legacy talent here in manufacturing left over from Motorola, there's a lot of ex-Intel people in the marketplace running companies with 50 to 100 employees. I think we actually have a chance to capture a high-tech manufacturing position in the Mountain West. We do have to play a little bit of catch-up from our previous position in the country, in the world, but we're I think well positioned to do this.
Ted Simons: I asked whether there was a model, something to look back on as far as the university is concerned, Case Western notwithstanding, anything else out there that you say they are doing a good job with this?
Sethuraman “Panch” Panchanathan: Take Georgia Tech, for example. They do a good job in the Georgia area, in the Atlanta area. I think ASU is a world class place. By all ranking metrics, by all impact metrics, we know that ASU is recognized as a leader in entrepreneurship, innovation, research and in training and education of students. Now it's time for us to see how we can work collaboratively with GPEC and other economic dominant agencies to see how we can make this an economic engine for the economic development and economic future of Arizona. We're focused on that at ASU, how we can be a leader as a university but also a partner in making Arizona a leader in the innovation economy.
Barry Broome: One thing that's really important, though, is in one single appropriation from the Georgia legislature, Georgia Tech's engineering school is double the size of Arizona State. So one of the conversations we have been having in the community is how can we be world class if Arizona State University engineering is half the size of Georgia Tech or half the size of Stanford. Ultimately we're going to have to find another way to organize public investment into Arizona State specifically in this engineering objective to get ASU engineering at the caliber of Georgia Tech, at the caliber of Stanford in order for us to take a model like this from prototype to scale.
Ted Simons: It sounds like it’s time to get serious here. Thank you for joining us.