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Reuters ranks UA No. 63 in the world for innovative universities

Balfour Walker

Reuters ranked the UA No. 63 in the world on their list of innovative universities. The Arizona Center for Innovation, housed in the UA Tech Park, was mentioned for its funding and startup efforts.

Reuters ranked the UA and the Arizona Board of Regents No. 63 on the Reuters 100: World’s Most Innovative Universities list.

The list ranks educational institutions based on what they’re doing to “advance science, invent technology and help drive the global economy,” according to the Reuters news release. The ranking relies exclusively on empirical data like patent filings and research paper citations.

The Board of Regents was included in the title because of its involvement in processing patent applications, the Arizona Republic reported. The UA was the only university from Arizona on the list, as Arizona State University was bumped off the list.

In the description about the UA’s success in innovation on the Reuters website, it reported that the UA has an $8.3 billion annual economic impact on that state and brought in more than $606 million in research investment in fiscal 2015. The UA also reported that 14 startups were launched out of the university and the university executed 97 license and option agreements.

Reuters also referenced the Arizona Center for Innovation, which is housed in the UA Tech Park and is the school’s business incubator. AZCI has supported over 100 startups and raised over $30 million in funding since it started up in 2003, according to Anita Bell, the center’s acting director.

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Bell said she was thrilled the center got a mention in the ranking release and that it really is a testament to all of the work that goes on. She attributes the ranking to the growth that’s taken place over the last few years, especially when it comes to businesses being supported at the center.

“In our case, more is better, because ultimately when we have more companies, especially if they come out of the university and we manage to get them into successful companies for the region, it improves everybody,” Bell said. “There’s better jobs available, and it’s really more economic development for the region.”

Part of the success of the AZCI comes from the existence of Tech Launch Arizona, Bell said. TLA is responsible for working with researchers to help identify and secure intellectual property that is created during the research process.

David Allen, TLA’s vice president, said that the innovation at the UA has increased since 2012 when TLA was established. He also said that he appreciates that Reuters focused on the dimension of commercialization for innovation, not just the dimension of research for innovation.

“This is not just about only commercialization. … It’s also about the impact of citations and research and everything,” Allen said. “That’s why I think it’s a particularly good index of innovation—because it’s more comprehensive than most.”

The No. 63 ranking is an exciting place to start for both AZCI and TLA, but both Bell and Allen said they think the UA can eventually move up.

“I think we’re going to do better over years,” Allen said. “Maybe on one given year it’s hard to say, but I think that I’m optimistic about our future. I’ve looked at the trajectory of our growth and it’s going to continue, and I think we’re going to have increasing impact.”

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Allen said he is proud of where the university stands given the other universities ranked around it. He also said the faculty and research community at the UA deserves kudos.

The ranking is a validation that things are moving along in the right direction for the researchers and innovators.

“I hope it really continues to foster the culture of innovation,” Bell said. “I think the university is in a good spot right now again with TLA being on board and up and running and seeing this increase over the last three years. So this is a kind of public stamp of approval and encouragement, [and] I hope that it will encourage more faculty and students to go down that path.”

Follow Leah Merrall on Twitter.

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