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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


UA turns aerospace efforts to industry

Continued aerospace and defense research efforts allow the UA to translate academics to an industry that impacts the state economy to the tune of $8.8 billion.

State aerospace efforts are coordinated by the Arizona Aerospace and Defense Commission, through which partnerships between educational and research facilities and industry and business ventures are forged.

Kumar Ramohalli, professor of aerospace and mechanical engineering and a Southern Arizona representative on the commission, directs educational transition for both K-12 education and universities.

The commission was started in 2008 by then-governor Janet Napolitano as a sole coordination entity for state agencies.

“”It, for the state of Arizona, presents a model for what the state is poised to do and can do,”” Ramohalli said. He said initiatives of the commission were to “”attract and retain high wage business people and companies.””

Aerospace and defense is a major market in the Tucson area, where Davis-Monthan Air Force Base is one of the top-five employers in Southern Arizona.

The aerospace and defense industry accounts for more than 93,800 jobs statewide. These jobs drive more than $6.9 billion in income for employees and nearly $8.8 billion in state economic output.

Gov. Jan Brewer allocated $1.3 million to the aerospace and defense industry late last year to promote Arizona as a global hub for the type of research that can bolster the state’s aerospace initiatives through business collaboration.

UA President Robert Shelton said, at a meeting of aerospace companies and campus researchers last month, that working together is the ultimate goal.

“”In order to be competitive, we have to work together,”” Shelton told those at the workshop.

Researchers from UA, along with Arizona State University and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, met with companies around the state to discuss further collaboration at the meeting. Twenty-four companies, including Northrop Grumman, Boeing Company, Honeywell, Texas Instruments and Raytheon were also present.

Ramohalli said that workshop allowed a forum to talk about the future of the university’s role.

“”Every other day there is a new group in aerospace and defense,”” he said. “”How are we (the UA) different from the various groups?””

The UA’s strengths come from space sciences, planetary sciences and exploration of extraterrestrial planets and bodies, Ramohalli said.

Recommendations to improve statewide aerospace and defense initiatives came from the board. The commission endorsed the UA proposal to retain the National Solar Observatory. Honeywell, with its aerospace business based in Phoenix, also signed a research partnership memorandum late last year to expedite the transition between industry and academic pursuits.

“”There’s no other place in the state where these (research initiatives) are available,”” he said.

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