Leverage the state’s assets, seed promising industry-university research partnerships and develop a coordinated strategy for growth so Arizona can be the hub for this booming industry. A&D is a critical economic driver in Arizona and a source for significant research and innovation.
Strategic Plan for Arizona A&D
About the Aerospace and Defense Initiative
Arizona is a world-class center for the Aerospace and Defense (A&D) Industry. The industry contributes in excess of $15 billion annually to the state’s economy and employs over 150,000 personnel. SFAz is committed to playing its role in growing the education and research infrastructure needed to keep this important business sector competitive.
Building on the success of the SFAz funded Aerospace and Defense Initiative the current focus of the organization is,
a) Building the pipeline of highly skilled scientists, engineers, technologists and mathematicians to drive the growth and competitiveness of local industry into the future. Areas of focus are broad ranging from cyber security to sensor engineering to energy management to the development of new optical system design.
b) Responding to the need for a coordinated research focus in new and increasingly important market sectors. For example commercial unmanned aerial system (UAS) design and the associated protocols for their safe integration into national airspace.
To assist in building a skilled work force SFAz invests in K-20 education programs two of which are directly related to development of talent for the A&D industry. These programs are of particular importance to this industry due to the shortage of STEM related graduates with the citizenship requirements necessary to work with Defense contractors. 40% of the students who graduated with STEM-related PhD’s in 2011 were nonresidents.
The first is the Engineering STEM Pathways Program led by Cochise Community College, in partnership with SFAz, U.S. Army Intelligent Center at Fort Huachuca, TASC Inc, and other community and industry partners. The STEM pathways program has industry and the local educational organizations collaborating to develop new curricula and programs of study for the training of their students. Embedded in the process are internships and real work experience. This program is developing local talent for the highly skilled technology driven jobs within their community.
The second SFAz strategic education investment is in Graduate Research. The competitive Graduate Research Fellows (GRF) program now in its sixth year attracts exceptional talent from across the nation to Arizona’s three Research Universities. Here the Fellows use their research ability to add to the intellectual capital of the State while continuing to hone their skills. (Add link to GRF web page). These students are the next generation of academic and industry leaders.
In response to the research needed to support and grow the emerging commercial UAS market here in Arizona SFAz in collaboration with the Arizona Commerce Authority (ACA), has convened a network of research teams from across the state. This group of over 300 researchers is focused on all aspects of autonomous system design and in the case of aerial systems their safe integration into national airspace. This Collaboratory grew out of the collective desire to support the FAA’s congressional mandate to develop the technology, regulations and practices that will enable UAS to be used commercially.