Recently, we shared with you a video spotlighting local achievements in Northern Arizona’s bioscience sector, recognizing those businesses and nonprofits contributing to Arizona’s growing reputation as a hub of enterprise and innovation in this sector.
There are many entities facilitating the headway we are making. From the City of Flagstaff incubator and accelerator to NACET’s guiding efforts as well as the Flinn Foundation – all are part of the development of “Arizona Bioscience Roadmap.”
However, Northern Arizona University holds a special place in moving our region forward. Much of that progress is due to the Technology & Research Initiative Fund, or TRIF.
Back in 2000, voters approved a 20-year tax increase designed to improve education in the state. In addition to projects for K-12 schools and community colleges, the taxes raised (until the program sunsets in 2021) are providing a total of $1.25 billion for research at the state’s three public universities.
This has helped fuel numerous advancements over the past 16 years. Each year the Arizona Board of Regents issues a TRIF Annual Report to document the progress. In the 2016 annual report, NAU shared an update on the iHealth Initiative.
The university’s mission under iHealth is to increase research capacity in the biosciences/bioengineering and health fields, then make it easier to turn the resulting discoveries into commercial applications.
These targeted, strategic investments in bioscience-related research have attracted external research dollars as well. NAU faculty who received TRIF funds through the iHealth initiative were awarded more than $7 million in external grants in FY2016, including significant funding from the US Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Agriculture and the NCAA.
In addition to new discoveries and their potential to add to Northern Arizona’s economic landscape, there is also an exciting workforce development dimension to the iHealth Initiative. Our local undergraduate and graduate students are receiving priceless opportunities to be part of cutting-edge research because of iHealth and TRIF.
You can read more about NAU’s TRIF-related research in the 2016 annual report.
There is already talk about renewing Prop 301 to continue supporting K-12 education past the 2021 sunset date. Ongoing research dollars for the vital bioscience sector also should be part of that conversation. Extending this support will allow our universities to continue to build on their achievements and solidify Arizona’s position as a bioscience leader.