The University of Arizona's McGuire Center for Entrepreneurship won the Innovator of the Year award in the academia category at the Governor's Celebration of Innovation.
The annual awards gala, held on Thursday by theArizona Technology Council in partnership with theArizona Commerce Authority, honors technology leaders and innovators from across the state.
"This award is well-deserved recognition of the McGuire Center's decades of impact and success as an innovation engine for the region," said Len Jessup, the UA Eller College of Managementdean. "Next year marks the center's 30th anniversary, and there is so much more to come."
Each of the four finalists for this year's award in the academia category was from the UA. In addition to the McGuire Center, the Controlled Environment Agriculture Center, the iPlant Collaborative housed at the UA's BIO5 Institute and the Landscape Evolution Observatory at the UA's Biosphere 2 were in the running.
Ranked No. 2 by U.S. News & World Report and in the top 10 by The Princeton Review, the McGuire Center is one of two U.S. entrepreneurship programs that made the cut in a recentstudy on entrepreneurship education issued by the World Bank.
"Receiving this award brings a special honor to the McGuire Center," said the center's executive director, Robert Lusch.
Established in 1984 as one of the first university-based entrepreneurship programs in the country, the McGuire Entrepreneurship Program is the McGuire Center's signature experience. Since the program's founding, nearly 3,000 students have completed the competitive, year-long program, and have gone on to launch hundreds of business ventures.
"We have been recognized nationally and internationally for our outstanding programs, but to be recognized at home is even more meaningful," Lusch said. "All of what we accomplish would not be possible without the hard work, ambitions and dreams that our entrepreneurship students have brought to us over three decades.
A selection committee of experts independent of the Arizona Technology Council chose the winners, commending the McGuire Center on its successful track record in educating students in effective entrepreneurial practice.
At the center, UA students learn and experience the entrepreneurial process from start to finish as it is one of the only programs in which students create, validate and implement new ventures. Also, the center's cutting-edge research sets it apart from other programs and has a lasting impact on entrepreneurial education, according to the selection committee.
In addition to housing the undergraduate and graduate education programs, the center also offers support and resources to research faculty in disciplines across campus and entrepreneurial students in other UA departments.
"As we begin to see improvements in the economy, innovation is more important than ever," said Steven G. Zylstra, president and CEO of the Arizona Technology Council.
"It is essential that we celebrate the creative spirit of Arizona by recognizing and honoring the state's most innovative thinkers," Zylstra said. "We congratulate all the winners and extend our thanks for their part in advancing Arizona as a top-tier technology state."
The other finalists for the Innovator of the Year Award in academia are:
- The CEAC, where scientists develop innovative ways to produce plants and their products, such as vegetables and flowers, inside structures such as greenhouses, with the goal of producing high value crops at maximum productivity in an efficient and environmentally friendly way. The CEAC supports education, research and outreach as part of the UA Department of Agricultural & Biosystems Engineering and the School of Plant Sciences – both programs of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. CEAC also offers an innovation platform for plant physiology, sensor technology and applied computer technology.
- The iPlant Collaborative, headquartered at the UA's BIO5 Institute. The iPlant was initiated in 2008 through a $50 million grant from the National Science Foundation and recently received its second round of funding with an equal amount to create a national cyberinfrastructure for the biological sciences. iPlant provides scalable solutions for computing and storing data and software services that allows the life science community to easily access those resources. iPlant's infrastructure is scalable from tiny individual microbes to plants and animals all the way to looking at biology across the entire planet. In addition, iPlant provides education and knowledge resources and training for researchers to be data scientists, as such skills are in high demand in many academic, government, and for-profit industries.
- LEO, which is housed inside Biosphere 2’s greenhouse dome. There, LEO provides researchers with real evidence of how the changing climate will affect movement of water and how the atmosphere interacts with the soil, for example. Most importantly, the observatory allows scientists to tinker with various environmental conditions and study the outcomes in a reliable fashion, something that is impossible to do in the natural world. After all, it is not possible to turn off the rain in the Amazon basin for a month and see what happens to the rainforest in an increasingly drier climate. But the enclosed and controlled environments of Biosphere 2 make just these kinds of experiments possible. Over the next 10 years, LEO will undergo constant evolution. While the instrumentation on the two other slopes is being completed, scientists have their hands full collecting data and calibrating sensors with the bare soil and the occasional downpour
The Arizona Technology Council is Arizona's premier trade association for science and technology companies. Recognized as having a diverse professional business community, the council's members work towards furthering the advancement of technology in Arizona through leadership, education, legislation and social action.
The council offers numerous events, educational forums and business conferences that bring together leaders, managers, employees and visionaries to make an impact on the technology industry.
With almost 750 member companies throughout the state, the council is Arizona's largest science and technology organization. Members of the Council include technology companies, service providers, government agencies, academic institutions and not-for-profit organizations.