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Coming to Utah this October: Communities of innovation elevating technology across the globe

Salt Lake City — University research park directors, planners, builders, scientists, and innovators from around the globe will gather in person and virtually this October 18-21 in Salt Lake City to learning best practices on creating, growing, and sustaining communities of innovation.  

Utah – with its entrepreneurial spirit, world-class universities, and award-winning research parks  – is a perfect venue to explore these ideas. 

With the annual Silicon Slopes Summit providing a look at tech startups and innovation the week before, the Association of University Research Parks’ (AURP) International Conference will be a key opportunity to highlight the great strides Utah continues to make in building an international tech community through research parks, innovation districts, accelerators, and incubators.  

Utah is home to the economic and knowledge powerhouses that are the University of Utah and its Research Park (which won the AURP Research Park of the Year in 2020 and serves as host for our 2021 conference).  

Utah also is home to many other communities of innovation across the Wasatch Range,  including Falcon Hill National Aerospace Research Park, the Space Systems Lab at Utah State,  BYU, community colleges, and a thriving technology private sector.  

New innovation districts such as the Point, industry collaborative initiatives such as BioHive, and the transformation of downtown Salt Lake into a vibrant tech hub are just a few examples of where Utah is pushing the boundaries on advancing research, public investment, and a  pioneering spirit to create real economic development value and success.

In addition, the Utah technology economy is ranked #1 by US News & World Report based partially on its investment in place-based technology. And the country is listening.  The US Economic Development Administration (EDA) has allocated $1 billion in planning and construction funds for innovation districts across the country, with the promise of additional billions in later years.  

The competition is open now, and during the AURP conference, we will have an update on how jurisdictions across the US can compete for these new funds. Our forum includes a discussion with Jonathan Gruber, co-author of Jump-Starting America, on how the future of the US tech economy isn’t just in Boston and Silicon Valley, but in Utah, Alabama, Nebraska, and Arizona among other places. 

Biotech also is booming in Utah and elsewhere. According to the University of Utah’s Gardner  Policy Institute, biotechnology in Utah has created more than 130,000 jobs and generated $8  billion in wages in 2018, accounting for nearly 8 percent of the state’s GDP.  

Space tech is another sector where Utah shines, and our conference will conclude with the  “Space Day” Conference on October 21. We have grown accustomed to seeing live TV events from around the globe, such as the Tokyo Olympics this past summer. Yet it was only 60 years ago when viewers in France watched a live television feed of a US flag flying thanks to the launch of Telstar, the world’s first telecommunications space satellite – a public-private  partnership with NASA and AT&T.  

Those early satellites took on new functions as technology improved, ranging from predicting skiing conditions at Utah’s world-class ski resorts to rainfall estimates for Utah hay farmers. The first weather satellites were the size of garbage trucks, but thanks to technological advances orbiting satellites today are the size of toasters. As it stands, the global space economy is expected to grow to over $1 trillion by 2040 and Utah will be playing a big part in this growth. 

Already, Utah plays a vital role in U.S. space defense, including Falcon Hill National Aerospace  Research Park and Space Dynamics Lab at Utah State University, a University Affiliated Research  Center (UARC) – which is one of only 14 UARCs in the country. 

Nearly 5,000 direct and indirect jobs in Utah are supported by NASA with a nearly $1 billion impact on the state’s economy. In fact, Utah is projected to be the #1 state in gaining additional  NASA jobs through the planned Moon to Mars Artemis project with an additional $800 million impact to the state. These numbers do not reflect the significant growth already happening with private-sector space companies in Utah.

With all this in mind, the stage is set for a great week of information, networking, collaboration  and learning this October in Utah and the University of Utah Research Park.