Arizona State University is planting seeds for new science on its Tempe campus that are expected to sprout economic growth and urban revitalization two miles away in Scottsdale.
The university last week officially broke ground for Interdisciplinary Science and Technology Buildings 1 and 2. The $92 million in research facilities are expected to provide creative fuel for the kind of marketdriven enterprises envisioned for the planned $300 million ASU Scottsdale Center for New Technology and Innovation.
The buildings will be the headquarters for ASU’s quest to become a "heavyweight research university’’ that will draw more science-based business and industry to the Valley, said ASU President Michael Crow.
"When a company in Europe is deciding where to set up its U.S. satellite or a biotech company is looking to build a new lab, (the Scottsdale center) will be the place they want to go because of its design and its proximity to ASU," Crow said.
Scottsdale’s hope for successful redevelopment of the long-vacant 42-acre former Los Arcos Mall site at McDowell and Scottsdale roads will rest on endeavors based at the Science and Technology buildings.
"When research on campus reaches a stage where it’s ready to spin off and materialize into a business, it will move to (the Scottsdale center),’’ said Dave Roderique, director of the city’s Economic Vitality office.
The idea is for those enterprises to be a magnet for private-sector high-tech companies, as well as retail and service business.
Mayor Mary Manross said she sees the center becoming "like a district where lot of restaurants and theaters cluster because it works best for them to be close to each other. . . . It’s the same kind of thing in technology. Those companies like to be near one another.’’
Crow said his confidence about fulfilling expectations for the Scottsdale center is being lifted by ASU’s track record in luring top-notch additions to science and engineering faculties to help lead the new wave of research pursuits.
"We are recruiting at will. We are getting everybody we want,’’ Crow said.
One of the recruits assigned to Crow’s "transdisciplinary’’ approach to research is Robert Page, former head of the entomology department at the University of California, Davis.
As director of the School of Life Sciences, Page will oversee much of the work aimed at melding molecular biology, various biomedical fields and genomics. That work will become part of new urban ecology and environmental engineering studies.
The design of the Science and Technology buildings will reflect the burgeoning trend in research, Page said.
"Life sciences are increasingly complex and the days of researchers sitting in a lab working in isolation are gone. We need to break down those barriers. Interaction is the future,’’ he said.
The set-up mirrors Crow’s directive to get researchers interacting with the community.
"He’s telling us we need to be relevant. . . . Too often the public sees us as sitting in ivory towers thinking big intellectual thoughts that don’t have anything to do with their daily lives,’’ Page said.
He expects ASU’s biotech research to become relevant to meeting the goals of projects like the Scottsdale center.
"The investment in life sciences is getting very serious, here and in other states. . . . It’s where the jobs are going to be,’’ Page said. "It’s where the training is going to be needed to meet society’s demands in the next 20 to 30 years.’’