The Arkansas Research & Technology Park: Innovation System Makes Economic Sense for Tech Startups (Sponsored Report)

Having a great idea is one thing. Having an idea make it through to commercialization is something else entirely. As Phil Stafford, manager of the Arkansas Research & Technology Park, (ARTP) can attest – product development doesn’t occur in a vacuum.

“New product development is the result of a complex network of interconnected parts,” Stafford explained. “Emphasis is placed on the process driving innovation, as well as the flow of technology and information.” A four-stage innovation process normally is used for companies accepted as affiliates in the ARTP.

The Virtual Company

During the earliest stage, interaction with the ARTP occurs when the new company is in a virtual stage of development. While it assesses the technical feasibility and marketing potential, the company normally has no assets and no staff beyond the principal investigator. Upon acceptance by ARTP management, the company is allowed access to the Park’s technology incubator staff for consultation on business strategy, marketing plans, and sources of state and federal support for technology development. It also gains access to conference rooms for meetings with program officials and business collaborators and access to the business center in the GENESIS Technology Incubator. At this stage, the ARTP management also can arrange access to equipment or instruments only available on the UofA campus through facility use agreements.

Proof-of-Concept and Early-Stage Product Development

The GENESIS Technology Incubator, located in the ARTP, plays an important role as the entry point for tech start-up companies in the Park. Through GENESIS, start-up companies have access to affordable office and lab space needed to conduct proof-of concept studies and early-stage product development.

“The primary goal of GENESIS is to accelerate the successful development of entrepreneurial companies through business support resources and services developed or facilitated by ARTP management,” Stafford said. GENESIS management is available to work with client firms to develop strategic plans on new products and give advice on licensing new technologies. Park management also shares grant source information with affiliates and introduces them to early-stage investors. ARTP affiliates also benefit from the Park’s strategic alliance with Innovate Arkansas, a program which encourages technology-based innovations to help create jobs in Arkansas. Through this partnership, affiliate companies receive business development assistance with business plan review and revision, as well as business and market research.

Advanced R&D

After preliminary testing and development, companies are ready to conduct advanced research and development in preparation for commercialization. The ARTP management supports these affiliates with access to research facilities and equipment necessary to design, test, and optimize emerging technologies prior to scale-up and product launch. During this time, ARTP management provides referrals to potential investors, promotes its affiliates’ products and services to potential customers, and collaborates in the acquisition and administration of infrastructure grants to grow and expand ARTP companies.

Commercialization

The newest building in the Park, the Enterprise Center, was created specifically for ARTP companies ready for commercialization. Affiliate companies are able to custom design offices, labs, clean rooms, and manufacturing areas to deliver highly innovative products in a timely, cost-effective manner. Using the building’s large footprint (65,000 sf), companies have scalability to meet expansion and process optimization requirements. With support from ARTP management, these companies are well on their way to commercial success.

Why It Works

Using this carefully thought out and proven innovation system, the Arkansas Research & Technology Park provides the tools to help technology start-up companies move forward in their business endeavors.

“By facilitating access to research resources in the Park and on the main UofA campus, we accelerate the development and deployment of new technologies,” Stafford said. “This broadens the economic base of Arkansas, which is a significant outcome,” Stafford concluded.

For More Information

Phil Stafford
ARTP Manager and President, University of Arkansas Technology Development Foundation
535 W. Research Center Blvd, Suite 109
Fayetteville, AR  72701
479-575-8411
psstaff@uark.edu
www.uark.edu/ua/artp