University of Arizona Center for Innovation generates $35.3M in economic output

Mar 13, 2023
Researcher working in a lab with test tubes and beakers
Choong-Hwan Ryu, director of research for uPetsia, a University of Arizona startup dedicated to improving dog breath, conducts research at the UArizona Center for Innovation at Oro Valley. Here, startups advance their businesses through a 27-point roadmap program while using a shared bioscience lab and shared equipment.


The University of Arizona Center for Innovation had an economic output of $35.3 million in 2021, according to a new analysis of the center's impact.

Part of Tech Parks Arizona, the UArizona Center for Innovation, or UACI, is a business incubator network that empowers science and technology startups in Southern Arizona and around the world to bring their ideas to market.

"The University of Arizona Center for Innovation is an integral part of our robust innovation ecosystem," said Elizabeth "Betsy" Cantwell, UArizona senior vice president for research and innovation. "We are translating university research into impact by guiding startups in moving ideas from concept to market. This is an example of our land-grant mission and culture of service in action in producing support and results not just across the university, but for communities throughout the state and globally."

The recent economic analysis – done in collaboration with Rounds Consulting Group, a public policy and economics advising firm – is the first to document UACI's economic impact. The inaugural analysis will serve as a baseline for future economic impact reporting.

The $35.3 million in economic output includes the direct and indirect impacts of the operations of the multiple incubator outposts and the entrepreneurs participating in the UACI program. The direct impacts of the startup activities create additional indirect impacts as the businesses purchase services and products from local suppliers, hire talent and spend money in the community.

"Cultivating new businesses is an important part of Southern Arizona's economic development strategy," said Carol Stewart, vice president of Tech Parks Arizona. "Economic gardening grows local businesses, where economic impacts increase exponentially over time. We are just beginning to see the results of UACI's sophisticated approach to startup support."

The report also shows that UACI startups contributed $2 million in state and local taxes in 2021. And startups that went through UACI programming helped create 441 jobs, including 182 full-time equivalent jobs in the form of individual entrepreneurs, startup employees and contractors who were directly supported by the incubator.

The report also found that nearly half – 46% – of UACI startups involve UArizona alumni, graduate students or innovations that originated from university research. UACI businesses often provide experiential learning internship opportunities to UArizona students, as well as jobs after graduation, which helps keep talent in Southern Arizona, Stewart said.

The economic analysis provides a snapshot in time based on data from the 52 startups enrolled in UACI in two different locations during 2021. Today, UACI has 81 startups in three locations.

The report also highlights UACI's emphasis on diversity, equity and inclusion; 62% of UACI startups are minority-owned businesses and 26% of all UACI startups are women-founded businesses. Nationally, only 6% of businesses in incubators are owned by women.

The economic analysis comes during UACI's 20th anniversary. Since its inception, UACI has provided more than 1,000 entrepreneurs with workshops, educational training and pitch preparation assistance. The center has directly supported a total of 235 startups through its programming and resources to help move ideas from concept to market. As a result of the support provided by UACI, startups have accumulated $105.8 million in capital investment funding, according to the analysis.

A graphic depicting the economic impact of UACI in 2021


About the UA Center for Innovation

The University of Arizona Center for Innovation (UACI) is a startup incubator network with outposts across the Southern Arizona region. For two decades, the program has directly served 235 companies, impacting thousands of entrepreneurs who have attracted $105.8M in capital. This is done by providing access to people, programming, and places that help entrepreneurs take their companies from idea to market. With the mission to fuel the Arizona economy, UACI works to help scale science and tech-based startups under the scope of Tech Parks Arizona creating university-based economic impact. Tech Parks Arizona directs the UA Tech Park, the UA Tech Park at The Bridges and the University of Arizona Center for Innovation. The year 2023, marks the 20-year anniversary of UACI which is supported by the following sponsors: the University of Arizona Office of Research, Innovation & Impact, The Boyer Company, Spencer Fane, The Town of Sahuarita and Optics Valley. 

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