What is Biotech?

by francine Hardaway on December 4, 2002

When I see a good economic development strategy, I’m like a fifty-year-old man staring at a twenty-year-old girl in a bikini; I get excited all over again and I think I’m young.

Tuesday morning I cut the dogs’ walk short and went to the breakfast meeting at which the Flinn Foundation presented the Biosciences Roadmap for Arizona, as conceptualized by the Battelle Institute. As soon as I saw the presentation, I knew it was right. It was, insofar as anything composed of PowerPoint slides can be, exciting. These Battelle guys have done more than tell us what we already knew and collect their fees: they have actually given us some steps they think we need to take to be successful as a biosciences center.

You can download the PowerPoints, the executive summary, and even the whole report at http://www.flinn.org, so I won’t try to detail what was said. However, several themes (most of which have more to do with politics than with life sciences) stood out.

First, this is a long term vision. We will not have a cure for cancer out of TGen next year. We will not have a new economy in Arizona tomorrow. We will be rolling the stone up the hill for the forseeable future, until it starts the avalanche. But that doesn’t mean everyone should not put his or her shoulder to the stone and help out.

Fortunately, I was around twenty years ago to watch downtown Phoenix start to rebuild. That has taught me about how easy it is to make far-fetched plans become real. Downtown redevelopment is still not finished, but every project that I thought was a ridiculous dream — the Arena, the Ballpark, The Collier Building, the Phelps Dodge Building, downtown housing — has happened over the past twenty years.

I once thought that the stuff I was writing in “The Heart of the City Report” for Ron Bookbinder in the 80s was fiction, but the Phoenix Community Alliance has taught me that big visions can have legs.

Second, it will take collaboration. We are not good at this as a state. Our Wild West heritage is strong on rugged individualism (I’m doing my thing, and I don’t care what anyone else is doing) and territoriality (this land is my land). The state government is more often a hindrance to our cities and counties than a help (it takes three years and three hundred lobbyists to get a bill through the legislature). And the Tech Council practically required a human sacrifice to get it going.

We’re going to have to lose that Wild West ethos in order to succeed. The universities and Tech Councils have already begun.

Third, and related to this, is the need for more and better *networking.* In the thirty-odd years I’ve been in Arizona, I’ve been on the founding boards of the Enterprise Network, the Arizona Software Association, the Arizona Learning Technology Partnership, the Arizona Telecommunications Infrastructure Council, Globalized E-Learning (GAZEL), the Phoenix Community Alliance, Tech Oasis, and the Arizona Futures Institute. (Ted and Alan, can you think of any others?) I’ve participated in ASPED, GSPED, and APNE and I’ve been through Valley Leadership.

No wonder I’m not rich; look how I’ve spent my time :-)

Everything in my career has been pointed in one direction: bring people together, put them on the same page conceptually, and allow them to leverage each other’s strengths. In fact, the name of my first company was “Hardaway Connections.”

And then, just as I began to think I was crazy, Bob Metcalf came out with his Law about the value of a network being in the number of connections…and universities began doing research into the role of informal networks in innovation.

These informal networks are all over Arizona, just as they are in every state. But in Arizona we’re lucky, because Tech Oasis has begun to provide opportunities for members of these innovation networks to come together informally, at no cost, to “meet and greet.” Tech Oasis has recently expanded to Yuma and Sierra Vista, is already going in Tucson, Phoenix, Tempe, and Scottsdale, and is soon to come to Flagstaff. (www.techoasis.org). We’re going to make Tech Oasis more useful by publishing a list of the attendees’ needs on the AZIPA list the morning after a Tech Oasis meeting. That will give a broader network the chance to respond.

Another good networking experience (and good way to learn about Biosciences and their impact) is the City of Tempe and the Tempe Chamber’s upcoming conference (Dec. 11) at the Buttes, called “From Research to Results).” You can register at www.tempechamber.org.

In the future, my Arizona-centric comments will be confined to my paid newsletter, and I’ll go back to talking about the broader issues of technology and human life in this one. So if you don’t care about Arizona, you’re officially off the hook. If you don’t want to hear anymore about Arizona and its entrepreneurial challenges, just don’t go to http://www.acteva.com/go/outsideworld.

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